Your Complete Guide to San Luis Obispo Wine Tasting on California’s Central Coast
The Central Coast offers the perfect climate for grape growing due to its mild temperatures and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The consistent ocean breezes make for long and prosperous growing seasons resulting in wines that are rich in sugars, acid, and tannins. Over 20 different varietals can originate from San Luis Obispo Country with everything from aromatic whites like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris to darker wines like tantalizing Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon coming from the surrounding mountain areas.
Most American wine is produced in California (almost 90 percent). If it were broken off from the United States, it’d be the world’s 4th largest wine producer. Winemaking became popular back in the 1800’s when the Spaniards settled in the West and built the first California missions. They soon planted vineyards to support Catholic Mass and wine culture quickly gained momentum. Now over a century later, there are at least 1200 wineries in the state with many of them produced in the Central Coast.
There are many unique and amazing varietals all over the state. The Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo specialties bring out distinct tastes due to the terroir in which the grapes are grown…some of the chardonnays (and other whites) from this area resonate a laidback, coastal, mellow vibe while the fruity and complex Spanish reds are a perfect warm up on a cool hilltop after the sun drops down into the ocean for the day.
If you are always looking for new wines and a unique viticulture experience, then spend a few days doing some San Luis Obispo wine tasting and embrace all that the Central Coast has to offer.
San Luis Obispo Viticulture
California’s San Luis Obispo region is great for agriculture in general, but especially for providing the perfect atmosphere for harvesting grapes being in the heart of Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande.
Cool- the ocean breeze floating inland from the Pacific helps the grapes reach their potential in natural balance and ripeness. The Central Coast’s marine influence definitely helps varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay excel in the comfortable climate where the temperatures dip in the evenings, helping the grapes maintain their flavors.
Complex- Again, thanks to the nearby sea, SLO’s soils have many variations that translates well to the vineyards. Different soil profiles can help a winemaker manipulated and shape a specific version of wine to its desired taste and its many vitamins and minerals can add complexity and color to the taste, improving its overall quality.
Consistent- Large temperature swings are not conducive to wine making (or any other kind of agriculture), which is not a problem for San Luis Obispo County. Very rarely does the weather get melting hot or freezing cold. The perfectly consistent temps hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit allow the grapes to thrive in their maturation period.
Put all of these three C’s together and out comes delicious varietals that can only be produced by California’s Central Coast.
Why San Luis Obispo Wine Tasting is a Great Trip Idea for Groups
Stretching about 54 miles along Highway 101 from Paso Robles to Nipomo in a chunk of the Central Coast wine region lies at least 19 wineries in Paso Robles, 30 wineries in Cambria/San Luis Obispo/Avila Beach/Arroyo Grande area, and a few here and there in Nipomo.
You need at least a week or two to hit all of the top spots, so if you are super-passionate about wine and all you want to do is explore the vineyards, then be assured that there is plenty to do in your 2-week vacation.
SLO’s wine country offers the perfect environment for people to get together and chill. Whether you want to meet up with the family for a reunion at a family-owned vineyard or host a bachelorette party, girls’ weekend, romantic getaway, or mellow 21st birthday party, there is a San Luis Obispo winery out there that can accommodate your needs.
Specific San Luis Obispo wine tasting tours are available throughout to visit a few spots close by in one day or you can find suggested itineraries of which vineyards to visit depending on how much time you have. It also helps that SLO is within a day’s drive from San Francisco or Los Angeles which means you have more time to spend with friends in the vineyards rather than spending all of it in the car.
SLO’s Big Wine Events
Farm-to-table dinners with the perfect wines to pair, Fog Catcher vertical wine tastings, and Laetitia’s Sparking Winemaker Dinner are just some of the events that can be enjoyed in SLO outside of the autumn crush and spring wine celebrations. Some estates offer 2-hour tailgate picnic tours with a chance to drive through the vineyards and learn about what makes their specific grapes so unique and their sustainability practices.
SLO also hosts a big Surf’s Up Sunday with all of the winemakers. In the first week of November, wine aficionados (and SLO surfers) can purchase a Grand Tasting ticket and enjoy food, live music, deals, and of course lots of wine from all of the region’s top wine producers.
Best Times to Go Tasting
Most wine tasting rooms in San Luis Obispo county are open from around 10am-5pm and reservations for groups of six or more or private tastings are highly recommended. Some wineries have oceanfront settings and some are located on expansive backroads, but fortunately most of the estates are all within a 20-minute drive of each other.
If you only have a day, consider visiting a vineyard or two in Edna Valley and/or Arroyo Grande at high noon when it’s warmest, then head inland to the heart of SLO for an afternoon tasting session, and then venture over to Avila Beach for a romantic sunset wine tasting by the ocean.
If you have two days, then spend your second day in Paso Robles where you have over a dozen wineries to choose from. If you can squeeze in three days, then head down to Nipomo and taste some varietals then enjoy half a day of shopping.
However, keep in mind that there are a lot of options and you may want to linger at one place or another (especially when you find that perfect wine for you). The more time you have to explore all that San Luis Obispo wine country has to offer, the better.