Cooler climates south of Cuesta Grade make for great whites and pinots
Wine country San Luis Obispo is a region known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals. Vineyards in this area benefit from warm days and an infusion of coastal fog. Wineries here are small family owned operations with unique tasting rooms. The region extends out into the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley.
The yellow historic 1909 one-room Independence Schoolhouse that is home to the Baileyana-Tangent Winery and Tasting Room is located on Orcutt Road just outside of town. There are a variety of wines to sample here with Pinot Noir and Syrah from the Baileyana label, and white wines from the Tangent label. You can also try Spanish style wines from their new Trenza label, and a German-type Riesling from the Zocker label. Sit on the patio for a picnic or play a game of bocce ball on the court overlooking the vineyard.
Just around a bend in the road you will find the entrance to Wolff Vineyards. This sustainable winery with 125 acres of rolling hills planted with vines specializes in Chardonnay, Syrah, Teroldego, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. Jean-Pierre Wolfe uses traditional old-world techniques to produce his wines.
Autry Cellars on Edna Road specializes in their Autry Cellars Brandy but has more than 12 varietals for you to taste. You’ll also get a feel for the winemaking process as you pass by the winemaking tools of tanks, barrels, a press and de-stemmer and a bottling line on your way into the tasting room. Get some wine by the glass and sit out on the redwood deck and enjoy the expansive view of the Santa Lucia Mountains. “Steve Autry combines the best of the scientific world and the artistic world in his winemaking ability,” commented area Chef Nanette Smalley, “I love combining his wines with food that I prepare.”
Visit Old Edna Township on Route 227 and sample the handcrafted wines of Sextant Wines in the tasting room at the Old Edna General Store. Here you can sample their Bordeaux style wines such as Zinfandel or their 10Knots Cellar’s Rhone blends. The tasting room will also pour Windemere Winery’s Pinot Noir that is farmed in the McGregor Vineyard, the oldest vineyard in the Edna Valley.
On Biddle Ranch Road go to the Edna Valley Vineyard where you can sample Chardonnay , Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Jack Niven Hospitality Center and Tasting Room. You are sure to enjoy the expansive panoramic views of the vineyards and rolling hills.
Claiborne & Churchill on Corbett Canyon road is an environmentally conscious establishment. They built their winery building out of straw bale and it is a first in California. Wine specialties here are Dry Gewurztraminer and Dry Riesling.
Kynsi Winery is a family run operation that produces a limited amount of Pinot Noir from their Estate Stone Corral Vineyard. The tasting room is located in a renovated 1940 dairy barn that has the original cold room now used as a wine vault. When you visit be sure to ask them about the Owl Story and their innovative method of gopher control using the owls.
Laetitia Vineyards & Winery in the Arroyo Grande Valley produces seven different sparkling wines with the best being their Estate Pinot Noir, Brut Cuvee and Brut Rose. Between the Laetitia, Barnwood and Nadia labels, more than 30 different varieties are offered. Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano recently named one of the area’s top 20 under 40 by the Tribune, cares for the 620 acres of vines. “Lino has been instrumental in having Laetitia and Barnwood Vineyards being awarded certification by the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) program,” commented staff member Jackie Ross.
Eric Hickey, President of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, is winemaker and has a style the balances the Old World traditional winemaking with the cutting-edge California style. Laetitia Winery is the only winery in the United States to produce sparkling wine using two huge European wooden basket style presses made by the Coquard Company of France.
Salisbury Vineyards is located just off the 101 Freeway at the start of Avila Valley and you can’t miss the 104 year old schoolhouse that is their tasting room. John Salisbury and his family grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Albarino and more, and winemaker Harold Osborne crafts fine wines from these grapes. You can sit out on the patio under an umbrella for tasting or enjoy looking at the art in the Salisbury Fine Art Gallery also located in the schoolhouse.
Saucelito Canyon Vineyard makes one of the finest Zinfandel wines from historic dry-farmed old vines that grow back beyond Lopez Lake. Owner Bill Greenough restored the abandoned vineyard and his son Tom, now winemaker, produces the Zinfandel along with Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and several blends. You’ll find their tasting room on Biddle Ranch road in San Luis Obispo.
— Ruth Ann Angus