SAN FRANCISCO — This month, Wine Institute’s Wine Country Back Roads series focuses on California’s southern Central Coast, extending from Paso Robles in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. Hidden among California’s world-famous wine regions are wine roads less traveled that feature stunning scenery, delicious wines and, often, fewer visitors.
The entire Central Coast wine region stretches roughly 325 miles along the California coastline from San Francisco to Santa Barbara County. It is home to about 700 wineries.
Fall colors add to the scenic tour at Chamisal Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County, California. Photo by Robert Holmes, courtesy California Wine Institute.
TASTE: Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo County includes 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): 11 in Paso Robles and two in San Luis Obispo. Grapes were first planted in the region more than two centuries ago by Spanish missionaries, and today SLO County is home to over 230 wineries.
Sheep and their guardian llama improve the soil at the organically farmed Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Photo Robert Holmes, courtesy California Wine Institute.
Paso Robles is celebrated for Rhône varieties such as Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Italian and Spanish varieties thrive there as well. Explore Paso’s west side via the 46 West Wine Trail. Discover wineries just east of town on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, or take in ocean views along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.
Bicyclists tour Santa Maria wine country. Photo credit: Visit Santa Maria Valley.
Santa Barbara County, located halfway between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles, is defined by the east-west traverse valley, open to the inland flow of fog and marine breezes. The region’s wind-swept valleys provide hospitable growing conditions for more than 50 grape varieties—from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling in the west to Bordeaux and Rhône grapes in the east.
Santa Barbara County has more than 200 wineries and nine wine tasting routes, including the estate wineries along the Santa Ynez Wine Trail, adjacent to Los Olivos, Solvang and Buellton wine trails. Taste Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Trail or Lompoc Wine Trail. The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail offers a taste of the Santa Maria Valley, including the area’s famous tri-tip barbecue.
TOUR: With its Old West, cowboy vibe, Paso Robles—named the 2016 Best Wine Country Town by Sunset magazine—features wine and olive oil tasting rooms, sophisticated eateries and fun boutiques. On Sept. 27, SLO County wineries and local chefs offer Sip ‘n Saunter with wine and food tastings. Fifteen miles down the coast, find Hearst Castle, the grand estate built by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1919. Further south are Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, known for surfing and seafood. Just 10 minutes inland from Pismo lies the college town of San Luis Obispo, home to downtown shopping and hip cafes. Old Mission Santa Barbara, where Franciscan monks made wine 200 years ago, is considered one of California’s grandest missions. Stearns Wharf, a few minutes away, offers seaside restaurants, beach activities and wine tasting.
For all of the wine regions included in this series, use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens and picnic areas, and view winery events around the state.
To see Wine Institute’s Back Roads guides to other California wine regions, visit https://discovercaliforniawines.com/media-trade/news.
About Wine Institute
Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group for California wineries, which produce 80 percent of U.S. wine and account for more than 95 percent of U.S. wine exports. As the nation’s number one state for wine and food tourism and 139 American Viticultural Areas, California attracts 24 million visitors to its wine regions each year.