DRINKS/ EVENTS/ Local Joints/ Small Bites/ Wino Day Trips

Savoring the Sunset

Sunset at the Castle

Sunsets are gorgeous, but there is something magical about sunsets on the Central Coast. Maybe it’s the clear, smog, free skies or the sparkling blue of the Pacific in conjunction with those smog, free skies. Whatever it is, when you add watching it from the balconies of a 1920s era castle that sunset becomes absolutely MIND BLOWING! Sadly pictures taken with an Iphone 4 can’t do it justice.

A fantastic evening

Every year for the past 3 years Sunset Magazine puts on a 4 day, wine and food event called Savor the Central Coast. I will forewarn you because I attended events, during all four days and I’m trying to fit it all in one post, this is going to be yet another long blog posting; so grab a drink (alcoholic preferably) and a snack, and enjoy the read.

The first night (Thursday) of the event is a sunset dinner at the historic Hearst Castle. This year was our first time going, and we had heard wonderful things about the event in the past, so we were really excited. Not to mention one of our favorite local Chefs, Maegan Loring was doing a Farm to Table menu. Doug and I had visions of sitting at dinner tables with other guests stationed around the Neptune pool with servers bringing out various delectable courses, paired with some of the Sunset International Wine Competition award winning wines. So we were really surprised to discover this was not a sit down dinner at all; it was more of a pass around hors d’oeuvres and walk around to different stations event. There were hors d’oeuvres like herbed goat cheese in filo dough, adobe pork rounds, fresh oysters, and tri-tip on crostini, that you could pair with any number of award-winning red or white wines from different wine tables placed throughout the castle’s various levels.

An evening under the stars

Even though I tried several different wines throughout the evening, one of the wines I found to be a good all around wine that paired with nearly everything was the 2010 Sequana Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.  It was a well-rounded and balanced wine, with a fruit forward palate showing cherry and red berries, with hints of spice, earth and floral notes. During the evening there was live entertainment with a 10 piece band on a platform set over the pool, providing a spectacular ambiance against the night sky, along with the delectable tidbits and libations. We meandered around the property from level to level ending at an upper most level for a bevy of desserts paired with Cockburn’s Special Reserve Porto. Keep an eye out for Doug’s future blog post “Buffet in Heaven” on the food and a more in-depth, and detailed description of the evening.

The Secret Garden

Friday was Adventure Day at the world-famous Madonna Inn and I was invited to go to a lovely Santa Maria Style BBQ  lunch with all the delicious fixings, in the newly cultivated Secret Garden.

2 Generations of Madonnas, Phyllis and Connie

I didn’t get to attend the actual rodeo, but from everything I heard around the lunch table, it was a smashing success. The entire idea was that it is an interactive experience in-which even the biggest Greenhorn was able to get up on a horse and rope a “doggie”. With a “no experience needed” requirement and the opportunity to do as much or as little as you like, it seemed like a great chance for the City mouse to get the Country mouse experience without all the hassle of actually working the farm.


The luncheon was lovely; set up on the beautiful garden lawn with the brand new Vintage Cowboy Winery on hand. Serving up a selection of their 1st vintage wines a 2012 Grenache Blanc, 2009 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  Lunch included tri-tip, ranch style beans, potato salad, garlic cheese bread, salad, and salsa and for dessert, black forest and pink champagne cake and caramel topped apple pie.  All in all a lovely afternoon, and a great way to meet new people in a more intimate setting.

The books!

Saturday and Sunday is the main event and is held at Santa Margarita Ranch. There is also your choice of a 5k and 10k run on Sunday.  One way to enjoy the main event for little to no money is to volunteer for one of the days to help out at some of the booths. You get a free ticket to come play on the day you aren’t working. In past years we were given tickets but this year they weren’t as readily available. Since our friend Holly was in charge of the “bookstore” booth and needed help, we decided to  volunteer on Saturday for about 4 hours. During my break, and this is a secret so Shhhh, I sneaked over to our twitter friend, Broken Earth winery to taste their Petite Verdot. The highlight of this job was, we got to meet and chat with all the visiting chefs when they came to do autograph signings of their books, and check out all the cool merchandise. Doug was in 7th heaven meeting the chefs, being the gastronomical enthusiast and Food Network freak that he is, he pretty much knew who all of them were. This year’s cache of visiting chefs were: Michael Voltaggio signing his book Volt Ink., and who did a cooking demonstration earlier in the day, Nathan Lyon promoting his book Great Food Starts Here, Marcela Valladolid was there promoting Mexican Made Easy, and Len Napolitano with his book, Nose, Legs, Body.

Uh, YEAH…is there any other way to live?

Sunday was our funday and we arrived around 11am to the sounds of the Big Rock Balalikas playing in the Vons Beer Garden. We decided to hit the beer garden later in the day and headed straight into the Central Coast Pavilion.  For some reason even though this is the 3rd year the event has taken place and even though I have gone every year,  I still haven’t learned the lesson that the best time to go to into the The Central Coast Pavilion is later, when it gets really hot, because it’s covered and there are fans inside. We decided to do a once around before actually  stopping and tasting anything. The cool thing about this exhibit area is that it focuses on the local towns and cities…each represented and offering treats.


Grover Beach was offering a photo booth with a green screen, so your picture looks like it was taken in Grover Beach. Pismo Beach had a sand sculpture and Splash Cafe was giving out samples of clam chowder. Atascadero brought some critters from the zoo, Cal Poly was offering tastes of cheeses and wines they make on campus. And of course we had to hit the Morro Bay booth for Oysters freshly shucked right there. The booths in the center of the pavilion offered Sunset International Wine Competition wines and we got to try some of the wines that we didn’t taste on Thursday.

Kynsi and Hilliard Bruce

We walked back out into the Market place where there were over 100 wineries represented and local chefs serving up small bites from their respective restaurants; and started our grand tour. We headed over and saw Kynsi winery and tried the new Hutash and Hilliard Bruce winery who was offering tastes of their 2010 Sun and Moon Pinot Noirs. As we made our way around the booth we also got to say”HI” to Daou Vineyards and taste their Chemin De Fleurs a very nice blend of 53% Grenache Blanc, 35% Roussanne, and 12% Viognier. Then it was time to eat some food! Thomas Hill Organics was serving a yummy lamb concoction in filo dough sample, which reminded both Doug and I we needed to make a trip back up to Paso to eat there.

There is a new Fromagerie opening in San Luis Obispo called Fromagerie Sophie, who was offering samples of their imported cheeses, most notably a Chevre topped with Lavender Honey which was OMG good. Needless to say with my cheese obsession you will find me there anytime I’m downtown. There were a lot of other great food booths there including a couple of our standbys like, Ventana Grill, Artisan, and Lido and some that we’d not gotten a chance to try before like Robin’s Restaurant, and Pasion.

In the booth directly next door to the Fromagerie booth, was our dear friend Martha, who’s become a bee keeper interested in educating others about Colony Collapse Disorder, and how we can all help keep our bees from disappearing. She has been making all sorts of nifty things out of Raw, Unheated and Unfiltered Artisan Honey; with her business TheraBee Honey.

Kara and the vino!

There comes a time when one goes to wine events that even though you’d love to do it, tasting ALL of everyone’s wines is just not a great idea, and you just have to pick one from each place. The day was becoming hotter and it became time to focus on tasting some chilled whites. Our friend Kara was working the Santa Barbara wines booth and she recommended we taste the Grassini Family  2010 Equipo Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in Stainless Steel tanks, this wine is crisp with delicate flavors and aromas.

@MrGrubby (Clint) of Wolff Vineyards!

The time had come for us to “Guess the Grapes” and “Guess the Wines” at the SLOWine Country booth. Which I did and won both, thank you very much! 🙂 I was quizzed on the wines by Steven Autry of Autry Cellars and who I always enjoy seeing and who helped with guessing the “ringer” in the wine group. While there we met up and chatted with the owners and wine makers of Frolicking Frog Winery, who was also checking out the booth. As usual it was great seeing Clint and his wife Karen from Wolff Vineyards, who was pouring their Alsatian Style Riesling.

Miss Steele and her wares

PasoPort Wine Co. was serving their Port in chocolate cups, which was awesome unless you didn’t eat it right away and it got all melty in the heat. Then it was Doug constantly letting me know I was getting chocolate all over my face.  We stopped by the Justin Winery booth and met Steele (which of COURSE called for a 50 Shades of Grey discussion), their adorbs event wine pourer, and tasted some Right Angle, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon;15% Petit Verdot; 15% Petite Sirah; and 10% Malbec, alongside some wonderful Yuzu Meyer Lemon ice cream from the Restaurant at JUSTIN.

We were just about done for the day but on the way out hit the Beer Garden, and had a nice cold Kolch beer from Barrelhouse Brewery. This was not only the perfect way to end the event, it was also a great way to cool down after walking around in the heat all day.

I’ve noticed there has been a common thread that has run through my last few blogs, and that is the heat in North County during the summer.  With all the wonderful events that go on through out the summer months here, the important things to remember; are to dress very cool, wear sunblock or at least a hat and comfortable shoes (no heels) because the events are usually held in a meadow or field of some sort, and most importantly stay hydrated- and no unfortunately wine doesn’t count as a hydrating liquid. :'(

“A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow.”

― Kathy Mattea



Upcoming events- 5th Annual Central Coast Railroad Festival Oct. 10-14, 2013; Oyster Festival Abalone Dinner by Chef Bradley Ogden October 18th, 2013; Morro Bay Oyster Festival October 19th, 2013 from 12-8pm; Harvest Wine Weekend October 18-20; Jubilee by the Sea October 24- 27, 2013; 3rd Annual Chemistry of Cocktails November 3rd, 2013, 2-5pm

@SavorCC #Sunsetsavor @ShareSLO2013 #ShareSLO

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.