San Luis Obispo County Wine Tour
I just wrapped up a long President's Day weekend trip to California's central coast. The weather was cool and sunny, with the exception of one afternoon of rain showers. The Central Coast is north of Santa Barbara, but south of Monterey, right along the 101.
Whenever I'm in California, and in wine country, it's hard to pass up an afternoon of wine tours. This time our tour included three vineyards Edna Valley, Talley and Laetitia. I'm far from a wine connoisseur, but I'll give my thoughts on the different vineyards and the wines we tired. All of the vineyards are in San Luis Obispo County. If you're in the area finding wineries isn't difficult and many of them are a short drive apart. You can easily hit two or three wineries in a couple of hours. That is if you can still drive.
All of the vineyards we visted had prepared tasting menus. I'll start with Edna Valley Vineyard and work my way through the list. I've been to Edna Valley Vineyard before. I've bought their wines in my grocery store. The winery sits surrounded by vines about as far as the eye can see.
Unfortunately this visit was a bit of a disappointment. Of the three vineyards we vistited, Edna was the least busy. I was with a friend who is a member of Edna Valley's wine club so the tasting was free. This was a plus and a good tip, wine club members usually get free tastings. Usually the people working the counter are chatty and friendly. That wasn't the case during this visit. She was pleasant, but just wanted to pour our five tastings and get us out the door. Maybe she was exhausted from working the busy holiday weekend. Regardless, I didn't feel like we got the wine tasting "experience."
Edna Valley offered two tasting menus. One featured five of their reserve wines, the other featured five of their more common bottles. The reserve list was more expensive, the other list if I recall was $10. Since it was free (for wine club members) we opted for the reserve list. Most of the wines were reds, with a chardonnay as the lone white wine standout. Nothing on today's menu was what I would call extrordinary. I'm more of a white wine drinker, but if a red is good and not too dry I'll drink it. However, I didn't taste anything worth buying and since the wine expert was in such a hurry to move us along I didn't feel the need to purchase anything. The tasting went by so fast I don't ever remember all of the wines we tried. I'll take better notes next time.
Next we hit Talley Vineyards. This was my first time at this vineyard and we were pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere was friendly and the tasting room was bright and airy. The air outside smelled of cilantro, which workers were busy harvesting about a hundred feet away. Inside the wine was definitely flowing. We had a very plesant tasting expert who took her time to explain each wine and asked us what we liked and didn't like.
Talley also offered two tasting menus. This difference here was the variety of wines. We opted for a mix of red and whites. I enjoyed their reisling and even ordered a bottle to be shipped home. On the red side, they had a very nice Pinot, although I don't recall the specific name. I also ordered a bottle of this wine, which I should have sometime next week. As we spoke with our wine expert (for a lack of a better term) she started giving us other wines to sample, even those not on the menu. Talley also has wine on tap. It changes every few weeks and includes a red and a white. It's essentially table wine and they sell it in a big jug that's equivalent to about two and a half bottles. When it's empty you can bring it in and get a refill and save a few bucks. While I didn't really care for the wine they had on tap that particular day I did think it was a cool idea. It's a perfect wine for backyard bbq's or informal gatherings where you don't want to crack open an expensive bottle of wine. If I recall, the jug was around $30.
The tasting at Talley was free because I bought two bottles of wine. Keep that in mind, at many vineyards they will waive the tasting fee if you buy their wines. I always try to find at least one wine I like to take back home. Think of it as a souvineer, but you can drink it. Another thing to keep in mind, wine can be shipped, but check first to see if your state allows wine to be shipped in from out of state. If you decide to take it with you, remember you can't put a bottle of wine in your carry-on luggage. It must be checked.
Our third winery of the day is right off of the 101. You can't miss Laetitia if you're driving north from Santa Barbara through San Luis Obispo County. The signs on the side of the road will guide you right to their front gate. You enter up a hill and it takes you to the tasting room. This room was cozy and very enjoyable. It wasn't as open and bright as Talley and Edna Valley Vineyard, but Laetita made up for it with charm and a roaring fire.
We picked a spot near the fireplace and were greeted with a smile. Of the three wineries, this was the most enjoyable spot. Instead of being presented with a prepared list of wines on a tasting menu, Laetitia gives you a book with dozens of their wines and you pick the five you want to try. Of all of the wineries I've been to, this was the first one with a large selection of sparkling wines. They also had a nice selection of whites, Pinot Noirs and reds. The wine menu also include a port and a desert wine.
I'm not a huge fan of dry sparkling wines so I deferred to our expert for advice. She poured their CuvéE M. It was fantastic. It was not too dry and just a touch sweet, but not too much. While I don't care for dry reds and dry sparkling wines, I do prefer whites on the drier side, such as a Pinot Gris or a dry Reisling. Laetitia had an excellent Reising, but their Pinot Gris was not available the day we were there. I also enjoyed Laetitia's Estate Pinot Noir. As a wrap up we both tried the Nadia Muscato. I'm not normally a fan of sweet wines, but this was quite possibly one of the best Muscatos I've ever had. It had a hint of citrus and was not overly sweet.
Laetitia was a great way to wrap up our wine tour. I ended up purchasing six bottles to be shipped home and joined their wine club. With the wine club I saved roughly 25-percent on the wines and I'll receive four bottles every three months. Their wine club also include free tastings as well as discounted bottles inbetween the normal wine club shipments.
While Napa is known for its wine, there are definitely plenty of wineries to check out in other parts of California. Stay tuned for future wine tours. In the meantime, check out Barrel Oak in Virginia and our trip to Monterey, CA.