Laid back, family-run enterprises are spread throughout this region, lying between the south of San Francisco Bay and the north of Santa Barbara. The winemaking history is young, with many vines only planted in the 1990s.
Paso Robles Wine Country
Peachy Canyon Winery. Located in the wine country of Westside Paso Robles, Peachy Canyon specialises in Zinfandel, and has been family owned and operated by the Beckett family since 1988. There is a focus on sourcing the best grapes from the area, which supports local growers and ensures great quality wine. The 2009 Especial Zinfandel is full bodied and elegant, and the 2010 Viognier has been fermented in concrete tanks in the old Sicilian style. Open daily 11-5. 1480 N Bethel Road, Templeton. www.peachycanyon.com
San Luis Obispo County
Ancient Peaks Winery
A family-owned winery founded upon a single estate vineyard that is remarkable in location, and unique in history. Co-owned by Karl Wittstrom, Doug Filipponi and Rob Rossi, it’s very clear that much thought and effort goes into Ancient Peaks Winery, from the production itself to the care of the historic Ranch, rich in flora and fauna. The Margarita Vineyard is found amid the Santa Lucia mountain range, the only vineyard in the vicinity. The surrounding Santa Margarita Ranch was first planted to vines by Franciscan missionaries in 1774, and has uniquely complex soils, the most spectacular one being found along a block called Oyster Ridge, where the ground is riddled with petrified oyster shells – indicating the land’s origins as an uplifted sea bed, even though today it is 14 miles from the sea! The high calcium content of the soil yields high-toned flavours with pretty aromatics. It is well worth booking in for a tour with one of the owners around the 14,000 acre ranch and vineyard, as not only is it extremely beautiful but you can also get a real hands-on introduction to the wines and the land. Sustainable practices are employed to nurture the natural essence of the grapes, and small-lot methods ensure that varietal authenticity is retained. The 2009 Renegade Red is a delicious blend of Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and the Oyster Ridge Red is also extremely good. For the adventurous visitor, arrange a zip-line canopy tour on the Ranch through Margarita Adventures. www.margarita-adventures.com. Vineyard and Ranch tours can be booked on Saturdays at 1.30pm. “B” El Camino Real, Santa Margarita. Tel.: +1 805 365 7045. www.ancientpeaks.com
Kynsi Winery. Housed in a charming renovated 1940s dairy, located in the Edna Valley appellation of San Luis Obispo County, Kynsi Winery is a small family-run producer. The local climate is strongly influenced by the ocean, providing ideal temperate growing conditions for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Syrah and other cool growing varieties. Wines are elegantly balanced and complex. There’s an excellent Pinot Blanc from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, which pairs well with sushi and Thai food. Pinot Noirs are a forte of the winery, and the Syrah Kalanna is also superb. Tasting room open Thurs-Mon 11-5. 2212 Corbett Canyon Road, Arroyo Grande. www.kynsi.com
Santa Barbara County
Hitching Post II restaurant. Featured in the film, Sideways, this is a charming, unpretentious steakhouse also serving quail, turkey, duck, ostrich. It’s popular for its Santa Maria barbeque – a Central Coast style of grilling over an open fire of red oak. 406 East Highway 246, Buellton. Tel.: +1 805 688 0676. www.hitchingpost2.com
An authentic Danish village, where visitors marvel at the architecture and bakeries. Enjoy Danish pastries, cookies and breads. Taste aebleskiver – jam draped, sugar dusted Danish pancake balls.
Wandering Dog Wine Bar. An extensive wine list with an emphasis on artisan boutique wines from the Central Coast, and there are over 40 wines available by the glass at any one time. Staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Beers from local microbreweries are also available. 1539C Mission Drive, Solvang. Tel.: +1 805 686 9126. www.wanderingdogwinebar.com.