Planning a wine touring vacation could seem a little daunting to those that have never been on one before. Many websites, brochures and travel agents can sometimes give you very different information. And with a couple hundred wineries in The Central Coast of California, you might not be able to decide where to start.
If you wish to see the country side, with a few wine tasting side trips, look at booking a tour. You can go by bicycle, trolley, bus and even an Ag tour. You will also be able to find more specialized tours depending on which area you wish to explore.
The Central Coast starts with the town of Paso Robles in the North, and ends in Santa Barbara to the south. If you are traveling by coast, the distance between the two towns is 135 miles. Driving along Highway 101 passes through a few cities, each with its own appeal.
The wineries of Paso Robles are both east and west of highway 101, and many are also along Highway 46. The town does offer a free winery map, if you are not using a paid tour; pick one of these up to guide you.
The long, hot summers along with chalk and limestone hillsides of Paso Robles wine country produce award-winning reds, Superb Zinfandel and Rhone.
Driving south, you will find the town of Templeton. There are two wineries here, both with tasting rooms. Turley Wine Cellars, known for its expensive wine, and Wild Horse Winery, which makes very affordable wines. There is a 2-block span between the two, where you can find a few bars if you want something a little different.
San Luis Obispo wineries, set back from the ocean and most only open on weekends, are fewer than those at Paso Robles. If you are there on a week day, you can choose from Talley Vineyards, known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Clairborne and Churchill, which have interesting whites, and Edna Valley Vineyards, a well-liked destination. The cool climate and marine sediment mix to produce the most highly regarded, rich, Chardonnay grapes in California wine country.
While continuing your drive south, you will find the town of Santa Maria. Laetitia Winery is one of the only ones that make Sparkling Wines on the Central Coast. Once you are in Santa Maria you will have to make a choice on which direction to go: taking Foxen Canyon Road leading you to Los Olivos, the Santa Ynez Valley, and Santa Barbara -you can find many different wine tasting rooms along a singl street- or continuing your trek on 101.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc, stop at the Brander Vineyard near Brindlewood. From there cross back over Highway 154, to Alamo Pintado Road. You can find several wineries in that area. Alamo Pintado Road will take you into Solvang, a very touristy village. Copenhagen Drive has many tasting rooms. Head back to Highway 154 and Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara has a couple of wine tasting rooms. Should you not have time to stop at several of the area’s wineries on the day, you can find the largest collection of Santa Barbara County wines, and one of the only places you can find multiple vintages of the same local wines, on Anacapa Street. If you continue south, you will find Summerland, and the Summerland winery.
The Central Coast of California climate is wonderful for grape growing and, with more than 60 prize winning sites open to visitors for tasting, it’s a good choice for your wine vacation. Many of the wineries offer special dinners, harvest parties, concerts and other events. Some offer tours, and wine making classes. The majority of wineries do charge a small fee for tasting, but sometimes they will waive it with a purchase of a bottle, just ask.