Paso Robles and Santa Barbara garner plenty of attention when it comes to wine, but insiders know the Arroyo Grande Valley as an up-and- coming hot spot that tourists often miss. Equal parts down-home charm and polished sophistication, the Arroyo Grande Valley Wine Trail is a fantastic getaway for anyone seeking a change of pace…and some seriously good wine.
Spanish for “big creek,” the village of Arroyo Grande stretches along Branch Street just east of the 101 Freeway, and is a terrific jumping-off point for a day of exploring and tasting. Grab coffee and a muffin at bustling Café Andreini, or for something heartier, hit up Klondike Pizza. Doc Byrnstein’s Ice Cream parlor makes for a fabulous treet. Then explore the boutiques of the village, including elegant home store, Willis & Bennett, kitchen shop and Le Creuset dealer, Vera’s Gourmet, stationery at Village Papery and Buttons ‘N Bows for children’s clothing, toys and gifts.
For the first wine tasting of the day, head out to Talley Vineyards, about five miles east of the village through lush farmland. The Talley tasting room is situated on a slight hill overlooking their Rincon Vineyard, and surrounded by inviting lawns and picnic areas. The Talleys have been a respected farming family in this valley for over 25 years, and their wine demonstrates why: plush Pinot Noir, complex cuvées and Chardonnay that is the stuff of legends. Tastings include wines from Talley Vineyards, Bishop’s Peak, and Mano Tinta, the family’s charitable wine brand. Estate tours are also available for a fee.
Next up? Lunch. Drive back into the village of Arroyo Grande, and, if it’s a Saturday, pick up provisions for a picnic at the farmer’s market, 12-2:30pm or Windmill Farms for fresh foods just a bit south on Highway 101. Otherwise, stop in at the Branch Street Deli for fresh sandwiches, wraps and salads on your way to picturesque Laetitia Vineyard & Winery. This beloved hilltop spot just alongside Highway 101 south of Arroyo Grande commands some of the best views on the Central Coast, including rolling hills, the glittering Pacific Ocean, and miles of vineyards in between.
Laetitia’s welcoming tasting room samples a tempting selection of wines from both the estate winery and their high-end NADIA brand, sourced from the sought-after Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard. Known best for their classic sparkling wines and coastal-influenced Pinot Noir, Laetitia offers a bocce ball court, vineyard walking trail, and comfortable picnic area for tucking into a sumptuous lunch.
For the last wine tasting stop, try Phantom Rivers Winery, back in downtown Arroyo Grande. Phantom Rivers Winemaker John Thunen uses fruit from coveted sources like Larner Vineyard and Wolff Vineyards to make award-winning Rhône-varietal, Pinot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel wines. Each of these is poured in the converted Victorian house that serves as Phantom Rivers’ attractive tasting room.
If dinner is on your mind, walk across the street to the stylish Rooster Creek Tavern, whose rustic-hip ambiance pairs nicely with everything from pub food like nachos and wings to more elegant fare like bacon-wrapped filet mignon and artisan pizzas. And if you still have the bandwidth for another glass of wine, take a few more steps up the street to Gather Wine Bar. This favorite spot is known for its carefully-curated wine list, which includes bottles from the Central Coast’s best and brightest up-and-coming winemakers. House- made breads, cheeses and charcuterie are also available, and live music is often on the bill.