Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 1

6 days…where to go in wine country?

Well if you have a Prius and can get to California fairly easily, you don’t have to choose.  Join us on our journey through California’s Central Coast Wine Country and a little beyond.

Day 1 Las Vegas to Monterey

We left Vegas before dawn and drove to the coast. We skipped LA and hit the coast in Ventura County. Day 1 was mostly driving with a bit of sightseeing along the way, with the final goal being Monterey.

Santa Barbara – the city

We took a break in Santa Barbara by Sterns Wharf to soak up some of the ocean and the morning. Santa Barbara, the city, has plenty to do for an entire vacation and if you love wine, we can enjoy plenty here without leaving the city on the Urban Wine Trail. Sterns Wharf is home to The Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room; The Funk Zone (the hip area close to the beach) has lots of great laid back tasting rooms and the El Paseo further in the historical district has even more tasting rooms.

Los Olivos

On this trip however, we kept driving. We took the 154 into Santa Barbara Wine Country. We drove through Los Olivos, with the plan to return. This town houses multiple wine tasting rooms and some great restaurants. It is a great place to park and walk, taste and eat. You are highly likely to run into winemakers in the tasting rooms and restaurants.

Los Alamos

We drove onto the 101 from here, heading north past Los Alamos, which is another great spot to do weekend tastings. There is another Municipal Winemakers tasting room in town as well as Casa Dumetz Wines. Full of Life Flatbread is a great dinner spot and if you need beer, Babis Beer Emporium (same owner as Casa Dumetz) is a perfect spot to sit outside and enjoy some really great local brews. On the weekends there is often music and Casa Dumetz has a Friday night “Words to Live By” speaker series which covers a wide range of topics with an eclectic group of speakers! But yeah, we didn’t have time to stop here either….on we drove.

SLO – San Luis Obispo

Next to drive through is SLO (San Luis Obispo). You begin by passing Laetitia where they do Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and have an amazing sparkling wine program that is Méthode Champenoise (that’s the really good tiny bubbles). Further in you will find more wine trails and downtown SLO which has beautiful tree-lined streets, lots of art and great food.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles is up next and there are so many wineries here that I won’t even try right now. They recently divided into 11 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Before dividing, this one area was the Paso Robles AVA and covered about 614,000 acres. (for some perspective, Napa is only 1/3 of that size). This place deserves a bit of your time. Take all 6 days here. It’s close enough to the beach that you can spend a day tasting and a day on the coast and then back. We do stop here on our way back…we’ll get there on day 4.

Monterey

We kept driving to arrive in Monterey for the first evening and with limited time, we went to Cannery Row to enjoy the view, taste some wine and have a bite at A Taste of Monterey. You can taste at the bar or get a table and do a flight and order food. We found a great table with a view (and a seagull companion) and enjoyed a couple of flights along with some bacon wrapped dates and…pardon me I drool when I talk about these… Inzana Farms Almonds & Pistachios, which are roasted in olive oil, brown sugar, cayenne, thyme.

This is a flash trip so there are more areas to discover and explore that we passed by.  Yep, the Central Coast is full of great wine country.  In Santa Barbara County you can also visit, Buellton, Lompoc and it’s Wine Ghetto, Santa Ynez and then the many wineries all around the county.  For more information on the Santa Barbara Wineries visit Santa Barbara Vintners.  San Luis Obispo Country also has great tasting rooms out at Avila Beach.  While we didn’t visit those areas this time, you can find more about them here at Crushed Grape Chronicles, just do a search!

The Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest is coming up September 29th to October 2, 2017 and it is a great time to visit.  You can attend the Taste of Santa Barbara Wine Country Event and enjoy wines from 50 of the different wineries in the region on September 29th in downtown Santa Barbara.  And there are event all over the region during the weekend where you will learn more about the wines, wineries and winemakers.

Day 2 takes us from Monterey to Napa and Sonoma!  Come back for more of the trip!

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Tercero’s Larry Schaffer on his love of Rhones

tercero Los Olivos Central Coast Wine Country

Santa Barbara Wine Country has a cast of wildly eclectic characters.  When you think of those characters, Larry Schaffer always comes to mind. Last year we had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Larry Schaffer who is the owner and winemaker at tercero.  It was the Spring Vintners Weekend and on top of everything else, Larry had an out of town wine tasting dinner to pour his wines at.  None the less, he made time for us.  We met Maeapple at his tasting room and she took us through a tasting before Larry arrived.  Larry is graduate of the UC Davis program for Viticulture and Enology.  He is passionate about many things; wine, of course, screw caps and as we discuss with him here, Rhones.

“So I started doing Rhones. My Masters thesis was on tannin development in Syrah. And so I fell in love with Syrahs throughout the state of California. Had a couple of Grenaches that really intrigued me. My favorite wines of all time have been old world Chateau Neufs. To me there is something magical aromatically about those wines and how they develop. I love gentle giant wines that continue to expand and twist and turn and I find Rhones do that more than other varieties do.

I’m also a fan of underdogs and making Rhones in a region that is not known for Rhones is basically being an underdog. Starting off making wine you kind of have to find a niche. It can’t be what everyone else is doing, so for me that’s kind of where I got my start. That’s why I started doing what I did. And the more I did it the more variety I saw in those varieties, the more I continue to fall in love with it. I’m on the board of directors for the Rhone Ranger, I’m the President of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Rhone Rangers.. Rhones are definitely my passion.

I hope to never get bored with doing it in Santa Barbara County. Such diverse soils climates terroir whatever you want to say. And our vintages have been so varied that there has been no similarity over the last decade of any individual wine that I have made. I enjoy that.”

You can often find Larry at his tercero Tasting room in Los Olivos.  It is off the beaten path at 2445 Alamo Pintado Ave, suite 104 (find the entrance on San Marcos).  They are open Thursday through Monday from noon to about 5 pm or you can call them at 805-245-9584 and set an appointment.  If Larry is not there Maeapple with take great care of you.  We did a pairing with the tercero 2013 Mourvedre Rose from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon, that you can check out here.

One of the most beautiful things about Santa Barbara County Wines is that the winemakers are passionate AND accessible.  They love to speak about their wines and this region.  When you go to the Grand Tasting either in the Spring or at Harvest, you will often find the winemaker themselves behind the table pouring wine and speaking animatedly about these wines.  The wines are their children, and they love to tell you about them.  Just don’t ask for their favorite…you will always get the same answer  “And which of your children is your favorite? Don’t you love them all the same?”

If you want to meet some of these passionate people you should head to the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend and their Grand Tasting on Saturday April 23rd.  the links will take you to more information and tickets. You can also visit the Santa Barbara Vintners site for more details on this beautiful area and it’s wineries.

And of course, you will find plenty of information right here on Crushed Grape Chronicles.  Stop back and explore or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.