Enjoy fine wine just minutes from downtown SLO

Wednesday, June 19th, 2024

Wine tasting in San Luis Obispo

Sip great wine, sample apple brandy and play some bocce ball

—The picturesque drive between Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo is the opportunity to visit some top wineries and experience the world-class wine produced in the region’s AVAs.

The charming coastal Edna Valley has been producing wine since the first experimental vineyards were planted in 1968 and, in 1982, was the first AVA granted in San Luis Obispo County. The Arroyo Grande Valley AVA merges into the Edna Valley AVA at the north end of the valley. The valley attracted attention in the early 1980s when the California branch of the Champagne house Deutz, acquired land in the area. Sparkling wine is still made in the AVA.

The gentle sunshine and moderate Pacific Ocean maritime climate combine with the fertile soil come together to produce incredible wines. Bring a camera and plan on a day of adventure sipping great wine, sampling some apple brandy, having lunch and playing some bocce ball.

Letitia Vineyard & Winery, exquisite wines from distinctive vineyards

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery has been crafting exquisite wines since 1982. Founded by an established French Champagne house, the Laetitia estate carries on the traditions of Burgundy and Champagne with a focus on small-lot Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.

The vineyard is distinct for the great diversity of soils and climate held in one small area. The wine from the estate-grown grapes is the product of one artistic vision from vine to glass, championing the exceptional character of the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA.

“Everything done in the cellar starts with what we do in the vineyard,” says head winemaker Eric Hickey. “I stay eye-to-eye with our vineyard manager because the interplay between us is what determines the wines’ quality.”

Laetitia’s approach to vineyard management and winemaking played a pivotal role in it becoming one of the pioneering SIP-certified vineyards on the Central Coast.

Enjoy a relaxing, outdoor tasting experience overlooking the vistas of vineyards and the Arroyo Grande Valley, play some bocce ball, take a stroll along the walking trail, or an ATV tour. Enjoy Wine and Music Weekends from April through October.

The winetasting experience offers the Estate Flight, the Sparkling Flight, or the Black Label Tasting, showcasing select Pinot Noir. Reservations are recommended.

Laetitia is located at 453 Laetitia Vineyard Drive, Arroyo Grande. Open daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. For reservations or more information visit laetitiawine.com or call (805) 481-1772.

Stephen Ross Cellars, 29 years on the Central Coast

Stephen Ross Dooley’s curiosity about wine started as a teen making rhubarb and apple wine in his family’s Minnesota basement, and after a degree at UC Davis and 17 years of making wine for others, he launched Stephen Ross Wine Cellars with his wife, Paula, in 1994. In the years leading up to his own winery, Stephen worked as a winemaker in Napa Valley, Edna Valley, South Africa and Australia.

Stephen Ross Cellars produces five or six single vineyard pinot noirs plus other varietals that flourish in the coastal climate such as chardonnay, grenache and albariño, and a Blanc de Noir sparkling.

“The energy that our wines derive from our proximity to the Pacific Ocean is unique and unequaled,” said Paula Dooley.

The couple owns the 10-acre Stone Corral Vineyard in Edna Valley, which they planted exclusively with pinot noir clones and rootstocks in 2001. The Stone Corral Pinot Noir is their top seller. Another favorite is the winery’s 2021 Pinot Noir Arête. The Dooleys promote sustainable vineyard management and winemaking practices, only sourcing grapes from SIP-certified vineyards.

Enjoy a visit to the tasting room located in the winery and experience these amazing wines with guidance from knowledgeable staff. Winery tours are also available for tasting room guests.

Stephen Ross Wine Cellars is located at 178 Suburban Rd., San Luis Obispo. Tasting room hours are Fri-Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Reservations are recommended. For more information visit stephenrosswine.com or call (805) 594-1318.

wine tasting in San Luis Obispo

Check out Claiborne and Churchill Winery

Claiborne & Churchill Winery, still run by original owners Claiborne Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson, has been producing Alsatian-style “alternative whites” in San Luis Obispo since 1983. In 1995, Clay and Fredericka built their pioneering, eco-friendly straw bale-constructed winery and opened their tasting room in the Edna Valley, and over the years they have expanded their picturesque garden area to accommodate more guests and larger parties for tastings and seasonal events.

To the delight of visitors, the upscale welcoming tasting room is located right in the barrel room, allowing the popular producer to accommodate more visitors comfortably. Reservations are available for small private events such as birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation parties.

Their guest cottage is perfect for couples hitting the road for a weekend, for parents visiting students at Cal Poly, or for anyone just looking for a relaxing “getaway.” The unit is available for vacation rental through the VRBO/Homeaway website, or by emailing elizabeth@claibornechurchill.com.

Centrally located in SLO Wine Country, Claiborne & Churchill’s vacation property is only a ten-minute drive from Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, or Arroyo Grande, and a fifteen-minute drive to Cal Poly.

Visit the tasting room at 2649 Carpenter Canyon Rd., in San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley; open every day from noon to 5 p.m. (except major holidays), claibornechurchill.com, (805) 544-4066.

Baileyana Tasting Room offers a beautiful array of wines in a historic schoolhouse

Traveling along Orcutt Road from downtown San Luis Obispo, the Baileyana Tasting Room is the first you encounter as you enter the Edna Valley. Housed in the historic Independence Schoolhouse built in 1909, the tasting room is the home of Baileyana, Tangent, True Myth and Zocker brands.

Charming both inside and out, this tasting room offers wine-tasting experiences designed to accommodate all visitors. With around 35 different white, red and rosé wines to choose from, there are wines for every palette, whether the guest is a first-time wine taster or an expert. For those willing to adventure and discover, an amazing experience awaits! With extensive picnic grounds and views, the tasting room is family-friendly and provides a memorable and fun experience for every guest.

Veteran winemaker Rob Takigawa is focused on bringing elegant chardonnays, aromatic whites and pinot noir wines from the cool Edna Valley and powerful reds from the warmer Paso Robles to Baileyana visitors. These wines are rich in story, and those stories are well told by the engaging tasting room team.

The Baileyana Tasting Room is located at 5828 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo. It is open from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily, excluding major holidays. Reservations are required. Please book on Tock or call (805) 269-8200.

wine tasting in San Luis Obispo

Wine, grappa, and apple brandy at Autry Cellars

Nestled in the heart of Edna Valley, overlooking rows of vineyards and a 40-mile stretch of the Santa Lucia mountain range is Autry Cellars. Owner and artisan winemaker Steve Autry and his tasting room staff pour wine varietals, brandy, and grappa borne from some of the best grapes selected from across the region, along with his signature apple brandy.

Autry Cellars’ informal, unpretentious tasting room is, “decorated in early American warehouse” style, jokes Autry.  However, don’t be deceived by the modest décor. In this tasting room, visitors can experience superb wine varietals ranging from best-selling petite Sirah to malbec and viognier.  In addition, you can taste the gold medal best-in-class grappa and silver medal-winning American oak and Hungarian oak brandies, awarded by the California Mid-State Fair.

Inspired by a spectacular zinfandel tasting experience Autry became a full-time artisan winemaker in 2001 and a fully licensed brandy distiller in 2012. A visit to Autry Cellars is about discovery. He says people who visit his tasting room, “come for the wine and discover the brandy.” At Autry Cellars, visitors gain access to impressive wines and brandies that are available exclusively in the tasting room. Every wine is unique, and each is produced only in small quantities.

Visit Autry Cellars tasting room at 5450-B Edna Road in San Luis Obispo; open 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (last appointment at 4 p.m.) and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (last appointment at 3 p.m.), autrycellars.com, (805) 546-8669. 

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