We at Parker Sanpei & Associates recently toured the north end of San Luis Obispo County and fell in love with the Central Coast of California all over again. Interested in our itinerary? Here it is – feel free to steal! Just be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart or for those watching their waistline…
8am – Coffee and Croissants at Back Porch Bakery, San Luis Obispo
Oh, how we love Dan and his Back Porch Bakery. A formidable artist by trade, Dan Berkeland somehow finds the time to whip up batches of light-as-air, decadently delicious pastries and breads every morning from his home. The best part is how he disseminates them: by alerting followers on Facebook to the day’s offerings, putting a flag up outside his back porch, and allowing folks to walk up and grab a bagel or croissant for a donation. It is one of the true joys of life to run into city officials, stay-at-home moms with kids in tow, and foodies of all stripes on Dan’s back porch. To get in on the action, “like” the Back Porch Bakery on Facebook.
10:30am – Tour of Hearst Castle, San Simeon
What’s that you say? You’ve NEVER been to Hearst Castle? Join the club: two of our staffers hadn’t either. So they were in for a real treat when San Simeon dished up one of its stunningly clear days for a tour of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s palatial home on the hill. The entire encounter reminded us why this is the Central Coast’s premier tourist attraction: jaw-dropping vistas, art that predates the Ten Commandments, splendid Spanish Revival architecture, and knowledgable staff to lead us through the labyrinthine corridors of the house.
12:00pm – Lunch at Sebastian Brothers’ General Store and Hearst Ranch Wine Tasting, San Simeon
We firmly believe that if everyone in the world could sit together on the patio of the historic Sebastian Brothers’ General Store on a sunny day, there would be no more war. Rustic soups and sandwiches meld with spectacular wines from Hearts Ranch Winery for an experience that fills the belly and warms the heart. Try the French dip sandwich with a glass of Three Sisters Cuvée for a meal to remember.
1:30pm – Tasting at Epoch Estate Wines, Paso Robles
What do you get when you combine the tried-and-true terroir of the Paderewski Vineyard, the winemaking talents of Justin Smith, and a modern, easygoing tasting room that belies the seriousness of the wines it pours? Epoch Estate Wines, in the tiny York Mountain AVA on Paso Robles’ West Side. From the outset, it was clear we were in for something spectacular. The quality and soul of Epoch’s Rhône-varietal, Zinfandel and Temperanillo wines were reinforced by the well-versed staff behind the counter. Really, it was more like drinking in a friend’s living room than tasting at a cellar door.
3:00pm – Tasting at Daou Vineyards, Paso Robles
Daou Vineyards is one of Paso Robles’ newest players, and has created quite a lot of buzz. Now we know why! “Tasting room” is a grossly understated description of Daou’s facility – it’s more like a tasting palace. Obviously, a lot of care and passion have gone into creating an ambiance of polished Mediterranean elegance at Daou, and the wines are no exception. We know for certain that Daou is doing something right because their wines are sold in all but a handful of states – no mean feat for a fledgling brand.
4:30pm – Tasting at Thacher Winery, Paso Robles
We had no idea what to expect as we drove toward Adelaida (“Let’s stop at the cemetery and see the lady in white!!”) to visit Thacher Winery. All we knew was that their wines won awards and had a loyal following…a following which now includes Parker Sanpei & Associates. The tasting room is in a rustic barn (complete with roaming winery dogs) where friendly staff pour the kind of stuff that made this region famous: Rhône-based wines and Zinfandel. We loved the crisp, aromatic, and perfectly-balanced 2009 Viognier…but really, it’s too hard to choose just one favorite.
6pm – Dinner at The Range, Santa Margarita
Picture if you will: Paris meets Bakersfield. Edith Piaf meets Merle Haggard. Bistro meets barbecue. We can’t think of a better way to describe this dearly beloved restaurant in sweet Santa Margarita. Housed in what appears to be either an old cafe or a filling station, The Range’s spare-yet-rustic aesthetic is the perfect complement to expertly-crafted dishes like coffee-crusted rib-eye in whiskey pan sauce and The Man Salad, a classic iceberg wedge with bleu cheese – served with a steak knife, of course. The local-based wine list includes “White Wines” and “Real Wines,” and the beer list includes mini-editorial on the brands offered. (We’ll save you the suspense: Pabst Blue Ribbon is called the “Headache Beer.”) Our long, delicious day ended properly with cups of decaf and a bit of Loretta Lynn over the speakers. Perfection.