It’s still summer in San Luis Obispo County, especially in north county where it’s still hitting over 100 degrees every day! And for awhile yet—there’s no relief in sight. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite refreshing wines: aromatic white wines, crisp rosés and even a fresh, carbonic red wine.
Food: One spot has burgers on the weekend, from beef that is grass-fed and locally raised…about 6 miles from the winery. And another serves local oysters over the summer months.
Read on for more.
Paso Robles Area
This winery’s estate vineyard is in the limestone hills on the western edge of the Paso Robles appellation. Just 12 miles from the ocean, Adelaida Springs Ranch estate vineyard has been growing award-winning Bordeaux varieties for almost 20 years. After providing grapes for Justin Winery’s Isosceles Bordeaux blend for many years, the family now produces their own Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, as well as rasies grass-fed beef cattle and sheep. (The family is also a founder and partner J&R Meats in Paso Robles.) You can join the wine club, beef club or lamb club, knowing that all club shipments come directly from their land in Paso Robles.
The winery’s Flora Rosé is a real treat! Made from Merlot, Zinfandel and Grenache, it’s made from part direct press, part saignee and fermented and aged for 3 months in concrete. Summer weekends are the best time to grab a seat by the pond and sip a glass of rosé while the proprietor grills up one of their home-grown burgers for the perfect Paso lunch.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek is a classic in Paso Robles. Not only are they one of the founders of Rhône varieties in California, but they also have an impressive, expansive list of wines produced and one of the most picturesque, cozy and relaxing spots in all of Paso.
Tablas Creek is a pioneer of California’s Rhone movement. Founded in 1989, it is the culmination of a friendship between two of the international wine community’s leading families dating back to 1967: the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands. After a four-year search, the partners chose Paso Robles, California, for its many similarities to the southern Rhone, and began the lengthy process of importing vine cuttings, building a grapevine nursery, and creating an estate vineyard from scratch.Tablas Creek Vineyard
The views are amazing, of course. It’s not always cozy, but if you grab a seat on the patio on a non-peak day, the atmosphere is positively comfy, quiet and serene. All you hear is the gently baying of the Tablas Creek sheep. Everyone who works at Tablas Creek is very well informed, and a pleasure to talk with about wine. White wines that excel here are Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Picardan, Picpoul Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Bourboulenc. Actually, ALL the wines excel, and you can’t go wrong whether you’re into white, chilled reds or big bold wines for summer.
This small-lot winemaking spot is perfectly situated on the south side of Tin City in Paso Robles…it’s your neighborhood winery. It’s the “sacred union” of 2 friends who couldn’t be more different. Xavier, the winemaker from Alsace, France, brought Union Sacré’s name (it’s a French phrase of war when 2 sides unite to beat a third). Philip, a designer from Michigan, brought his design skills and love of minerally, elegant wine. Together, they make astounding wines inspired by Alsace, and each other.
Wines not to miss for hot weather are the Fraulein, Dry Rieslings, plus the Fragrance, Dry Riesling Rosé, and the star of the summer, L’Orangerie, Dry Gewürztraminer. This wine tastes like a vin d’orange without the sugar, and transports you directly to the South of France. They also make Pinot Noir from Spanish Springs vineyard, and Paso faves Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wines are as pretty as the labels, which have an austere front, and a fantasy inside. It’s wine for food, and wine for friends.
Edna Valley, Avila Beach & Arroyo Grande
Claiborne & Churchill
Claiborne & Churchill in Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo has been a working family-owned winery since 1983. Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson were also inspired by the light, interesting wines of Alsace, and specialize in dry Riesling, dry Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, and also make stellar Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
For summer wines, this year they added 2 new fun wines to their lineup: a Pinot Noir Blanc and a Carbonic Pinot Noir. There are a few Pinot Noir Blancs rearing their heads in the SLO area, which is a classic white wine, made from Pinot Noir grapes, with no skin contact. If you’ve never had one, this is the place to try it! The Carbonic Pinot Noir is also a treat: it’s fresh and fruity, with plenty of stemmy and earthy flavors. This fermentation process is much faster than the traditional crush, and involves introduction of carbon dioxide pressure on whole grapes and clusters, so that they ferment inside the grape without being crushed. Another winner here!
Mike Sinor is recognized as one of the highest-rated winemakers in SLO County. And for good reason. Along with the multitude of labels that have been under her influence over the years, he also produces awesome wines with his wife. At their winery Sinor-LaVallee located in Avila Beach, they offers Estate wines (from his Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach, in the soon-to-be-named SLO Coast AVA), White Label wines (limited wines with more bright acidity, lower alcohol, leaner), and Black Label wines ( (limited wines with more power and richness, higher alcohol and lower acidity).
Some summer favorite wines are the Chardonnay, Albariño, and Vin Gris Rosé, which go perfectly with the oysters and outdoor patio that both launched this summer. And it’s not too late! Make sure to pre-order your local oysters ahead of time (sourced from Morro Bay Oyster Co.) and get your shucking hand ready; you’ll be shucking them yourself. But don’t worry; if you don’t have your own shucking gear, you can buy it from the winery. It’s not hard, but you may want to watch a video or two before arriving. Plus, they have bubbles: sparkling Vin Gris “Soirée Du Gris” Pétillant Naturel!
Josh Klapper came up the ranks with the likes of Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist in Santa Maria Valley, some of the most influential wine personalities on the Central Coast. He has since had a hand in making wines all over the area, with his own label Timbre (meaning the the “color” of music) with a tasting room in the village of Arroyo Grande. These wines focus on Santa Barbara County grapes, and represent 2 voices singing the same song, but sounding different. The goal is to express the terroir better and better each year, and he practices intervening with the wine as little as possible in the winery. The result is beautiful wine of distinction of place.
And the wines: this summer, Timbre released 2 Rosés to satisfy all customers: a lighter one in a Provence-style, and a bit darker one with more fruity notes for a perfect summer barbecue. There is also a lovely, light Sauvignon Blanc and 4 different Chardonnays. Adding in the 4-5 Pinot Noirs, a Syrah and a Cabernet, there truly is a wine for everyone’s palate at Timbre.