The 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 in the south. Hidden among California’s
famous wine regions are wine roads less traveled featuring stunning scenery, delicious wines and, often, fewer visitors.
TASTE: Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, grapes were first planted in San Luis Obispo County more than two centuries ago by Spanish missionaries. Today the region is home to over 230 wineries, including 13 American Viticultural Areas: 11 in Paso Robles and two in San Luis Obispo.
The cool San Luis Obispo coast, known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, has six wine trails including Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande.
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.
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 has over 50 grape varieties—from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling in the west to Bordeaux and Rhône grapes in the east.
Santa Barbara County has about 200 wineries and nine wine tasting routes, including the Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Solvang and Buellton wine trails. Taste Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the Sta. Rita Hills or Lompoc wine trails. The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail offers a taste of Santa Maria Valley, including the area’s famous tri-tip barbecue.
TOUR: With its Old West, cowboy vibe, Paso Robles, named 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 offer Sip ‘n Saunter with wine and food tastings. Fifteen miles south, find Hearst Castle, built in 1919. Old Mission Santa Barbara is a grand California mission where Franciscan monks made wine 200 years ago. Stearns Wharf offers seaside restaurants, beaches and wine tasting.
For all wine regions in this series, go to the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries and events statewide.