Locations in San Simeon and Cholame celebrate rich history of the county
About seven years ago, serendipity placed part of the legacy of William Randolph Hearst into the lap of sixth-generation Central Coast native Jim Saunders and his wife Debi.
Building on the success of their first location, Hearst Ranch Winery now beckons travelers at two gates of the county, with two locations situated as the, “last in the West” in San Simeon, and now the, “first in the East,” in Cholame. “We are first in, last out… the only winery in San Luis Obispo County with this distinction,” Jim said.
Sipping in San Simeon
When Jim and Debi were attending a fundraiser auction for Hearst Cancer Research Center, they won a private tour of Hearst Castle with Stephen Hearst, the great-grandson of William Randolph, the turn of the century media mogul who built the majestic fortress along with San Francisco architect Julia Morgan.
When Jim and his family attended the tour with down-to-earth, cowboy-hat-clad Hearst, he gave him a token of his appreciation: a couple of nine-liter magnums of his Saunders Vineyard wine, in etched bottles showing the iconic “H” of the Hearst brand on the front.
Hearst was delighted and intrigued, and after a visit to the Saunders Vineyard, decided to follow a longtime held dream and go into business with the Saunders family to start the small, local winery.
The San Simeon tasting room shares space with one of the county’s oldest Post Offices and Sebastian’s Deli. The building was constructed in 1852 and was originally located on the cliff, about halfway out to “The Point” in San Simeon Bay. It was re-located in the early 1860’s, with the help of horse drawn skids and lots of manual labor.
From the porch, patrons can enjoy a great sandwich, taste Hearst Ranch wines, and enjoy a view of Hearst Castle. Inside the building are antiques and vintage pictures of the area during the beginnings of the Hearst family ownership.
The tasting room is located just across from Hearst Castle near the peaceful harbor and pier of W.R. Hearst Memorial State Beach. The tasting room makes the perfect pit stop before or after a visit to Hearst Castle.
Cowboy class in Cholame
The new Jack Ranch tasting room on Highway 46 East in Cholame also celebrates history. The James Dean Memorial is located on the site; a dedication and tribute to the young actor who passed away well before his time, close to the location of the tasting room.
The tasting room in Cholame is located within the Jack Ranch Cafe, another one of the oldest buildings in the County, still operating as a small, family style restaurant. Rumor has it that Jack Ranch Cafe was one of the “first ever” drive-thru food restaurants, where patrons would ride their horse up to the window to order and pick up their food as it was delivered down a wooden slide.
The decor of the tasting room tips its cowboy hat to the bygone era of the Wild West, but is also inspired by the iconic style and class of Hearst Castle. Jack Ranch is approximately 73,000 acres, and the family and Hearst Corporation have put the land into a land conservancy, insuring it will never change.
The new tasting room is a must-see, especially for travelers coming into Paso Robles from Highway 46 East. The Jack Ranch tasting room is a great “pit stop” for customers wanting to try the award-winning wines and to check out the clothing and gift shop. The staff is knowledgeable, helpful and courteous.
The winery recently welcomed a new winemaker, Soren Christensen, “Soren has made some fantastic new wines for us, and has been a terrific addition to our team,” Jim said. They have also welcomed Guillaume Fabre, formerly of L’Aventure Winery, as a consulting winemaker for a new tier of wine.
“We are really proud of our amazing team,” said the Saunders. “We really want to thank them for backing us and supporting this new expansion.”
Rich history, award-winning wines
The winery boasts dozens of awards from the likes of the Central Coast Wine Competition, the LA International Wine Competition, the San Francisco International Wine Competition, and the Monterey Wine Competition, among others.
History buffs and wine enthusiasts alike will be thrilled at the combination of award winning wines paired with an opportunity to glimpse into the rich and varied history of the Central Coast.
Sebastian’s tasting room is located at 442 Slo San Simeon Road, in San Simeon, (805) 927-4100 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Jack Ranch tasting room is located at 19215 Hwy 46 East, in Cholame, (805) 238-9400, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Skye Ravy