Taste the Best of Coastal Wineries

The Finest Coastal San Luis Obispo County Wines

ab_13If you are looking for where the best wineries are in San Luis Obispo County, the answer depends on your own preferences. There are more than 200 wine tasting opportunities in the region and anyone can find something that suits their palate.

Here are 10 wineries in Coastal San Luis Obispo County local ‘experts’ tend to refer visitors.

10. Moonstone Cellars. With just a few spots for wine tasting in Cambria, Calif., Moonstone Cellars deserves a spot on this list. The winery has a satisfying (and huge) collection of wine varietals from Albarino to Viognier (my favorite white) to Tempranillo and the ever-popular Zinfandel. Moonstone also has some dessert wines that are sweet and tasty. But the primary reason this winery made my list is because its tasting room is dog friendly! Bring your pup in on a leash and the tasting room attendants will even serve up a nice bowl of Moonstone Cellars Dog Water (and maybe even give a treat or two).

9. Cayucos Cellars. This small, family-owned winery is located in the coastal hills above Cayucos. With a modest wine list, Cayucos Cellars takes pride in every single wine they make. This charming winery is a great stop for wine-tasting beginners, with its warm and inviting atmosphere and its wonderful Zinfandel and Late-Harvest Zinfandel (a dessert wine). A small-production winery, it only makes 500 to 800 barrels per year, Cayucos Cellars sometimes sells out of customer favorites (which is the perfect reason to buy something you like). The tasting fee is only $5 for about six wines, and the fee is waived with a purchase of a bottle.

8. Pear Valley Vineyard. The first time I ever went to Pear Valley Vineyard, I joined the wine club. The variety of award-winning wines are amazing, but there are two reasons it makes my list today: the cost and the tasting room. The cost of a bottle of Pear Valley wine averages at just $19 a pop. That, along with its stunning stone-walled tasting room overlooking a huge vineyard, it’s a fantastic place to bring friends and family. All Pear Valley wines are made from 100 percent estate grown fruit (which means they grow it all on their own property, instead of buying grapes from other vineyards). And they often have fun events, like Fireside Concerts.

7. Wolff Vineyards. The perfect social spot, Wolff Vineyards offers an inviting wine tasting experience, complete with dogs and people enjoying picturesque views of sunny Edna Valley. And this winery is about as sustainable as a one can get. A Green Award winner, Wolff Vineyards works hard to conserve and restore the environment around them. Its wines have won countless awards from Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Central Coast Wine Competitions and more. And I always take friends from out of town to visit this winery because of the Petite Syrah and Pinot Noir… and of course to view the sweeping views of vineyards straight from the tasting room.

6. Brian Benson Cellars. Some may wonder why this winery is on the list, as most have never heard of it. The minute you visit, you’ll understand why. Brian Benson is the only employee and he pours the wine, makes it and bottles it. The tasting room’s décor is biker-chic with tattoo art adorning the walls. Take one step through the doors and you’ll realize this isn’t your average winery. But back to the wine. Brian is focused on making intense, unique and extremely high-quality custom wines made in the Rhone and Bordeaux varietals from the most respected vineyards in Paso. He’s really fun to chat with too, and knows a heckofalot about wine. The tasting room is only open on weekends though.

5. Dark Star Cellars. After visiting Brian Benson Cellars, simply walk right next door to the Dark Star Cellars tasting room (they’re in the same building). Open only on weekends, this tasting room has a lot of great, unique gift ideas. And the winery features some of the best blends in Paso. My favorites include the Left Turn (60% Zin, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre) and the Soft Shoulder (60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre). But, really, you can’t go wrong with any of their wines. Established in 1994 by Norm, Susan, their daughter Nicole and son Brian, ala Brian Benson Cellars, this winery really is a family affair. These wines are made for drinking. It’s really quite enjoyable.

4. Niner Wine Estates. Niner Wine Estates is the perfect blend of exceptional people (they’re all so nice), estate vineyards, state-of-the-art tools and visionary ideas that provide a one-of-kind experience in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. The tasting room (AKA Hospitality Center) is gorgeous and the winery is LEED certified. Located at the base of Heart Hill (you have to see it to understand why it was dubbed heart hill), Niner’s huge Hospitality Center features a tasting room, private CLUB 9 members-only lounge and expansive patio facilities. And because Niner believes food is a crucial component to the overall winery experience, they often offer cooking classes and parings. But, really, I just enjoy the wines. The Fog Catcher is actually one of their most popular wines, but I prefer the Sangiovese.

3. Chamisal Vineyard. Chamisal Vineyards features one of the first vineyards ever planted in the Edna Valley wine region. The tasting room is cool on warm summer days, and the outdoor patio is a comfortable setting to picnic with friends and family. A local favorite, Chamisal produces bold wines that are complex and delicious. Enjoy it Califa Wines, which translates into the “prettiest one,” for a blend of opulent and powerful vintages with intense flavor. But their small-lot, estate or stainless wines are also very good. Each wine is crafted to showcase the 80-acre estate and its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Gris.

2. Tablas Creek Vineyard. While the tasting room at Tablas Creek Vineyard isn’t the best one on the list, it’s wines really are delicious. The 2009 Cotes de Tablas was named No. 37 in Wine Spectator’s 100 Wines of 2011 list, the third year in a row that Tablas win has made the list. And it’s no wonder. Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded in 1989 when the Paso Robles 120-acre estate was purchased by the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, a longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The history and technique used to produce its wines is apparent in every bottle. They simply are divine.

1. Talley Vineyards. Talley Vineyards is a family-owned winery that is very community oriented. It’s owners grew up in the area, and give so much back to the surrounding communities that I had to put them on the list. Specializing in estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the climate and soils of the Arroyo Grande Valley and Edna Valley are perfectly suited for this winery. While the vineyard has several labels suited for different tastes and causes (the Mano Tinta label is a charity wine produced by the winery in collaboration with others to support The Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, an endowment that benefits farm workers in San Luis Obispo County). The tasting room and courtyard just beyond are beautiful, warm and inviting, too.

Honorable mentions

Wild Coyote
Eberle Winery
Baileyana/Tangent
Claiborne and Churchill
Grey Wolf Vineyards
Midnight Cellars
Cass Winery