Monthly Archives: March 2012

First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival

In celebration of the world-renowned oysters of Morro Bay, the Central Coast Oyster Festival will be held Saturday, June 16 at the Morro Bay Golf Course from 12 P.M. to 8 P.M.

 This new event will benefit OPTIONS Family of Services, a nonprofit organization serving the disabled or persons with developmental disabilities and persons with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). OPTIONS provides a wide array of flexible programs that are customized for each individual they serve, with community accessibility emphasized at every level. Services include residential living supported living, rehabilitation therapy, day programing and vocational training.

Jacqueline Delaney, Marketing and Sales Director for OPTIONS Family of Services, said “The Central Coast Oyster Festival will feature a range of amazing oyster preparations, the best wines and brews, unique venue design, and a full lineup of knockout bands to play throughout the day.”  She added, “There are so many great wine, food, and entertainment events on the Central Coast that we’ve really concentrated on creating an experience unlike any other.”

With a view of the Morro Bay Oyster Farm as well as the iconic Morro Rock, the Central Coast Oyster Festival will feature oysters from the Morro Bay Oyster Company, widely recognized as one of the greatest suppliers on the West Coast.  Dozens of chefs from across the Central Coast will go head-to-head for the ‘Best Oyster of the Central Coast” Chef Award, and the audience will be invited to taste their sumptuous efforts.  But while oysters will, of course, be the main attraction, other epicurean delights will also be available.

Any good oyster festival needs a shucking competition, and the Central Coast Oyster Festival, benefiting OPTIONS Family of Services, is no exception.  Local shuckers will be invited to demonstrate their speed and skill to a live audience for prizes and the respect of the Central Coast community.  Participants may sign up the day of the festival by 2 P.M. for the 4 P.M. contest.

In addition to the delectable flavors of fresh Morro Bay oysters, the festival will include special features such as whimsical structures from The Do LaB.  Based out of Los Angeles, The Do LaB is world-renowned for bending reality through interactive environments, event production and creative lighting design. Prominently showcased at such high-profile gatherings as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival and Burning Man, The Do LaB takes an organic approach to everything they design and create, striving to bring their visions to life with natural materials, found objects and sustainable resources.

The Do LaB’s particular focus at the Central Coast Oyster Festival, benefiting OPTIONS Family of Services, will be the “Aphrodisiac Lounge.”  This beautiful modern-chic pagoda will house a raw oyster bar, sparkling and still wines, cocktails, cheeses and chocolates.  As an added benefit, local craft brewery Tap It Brewing Company is proud to release an exclusiv

Headlining entertainment for the Central Coast Oyster Festival will be the multi-talented indie band Walk Off The Earth, whose covers of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” went viral on YouTube earlier this year.  Additional bands for the event include TROPO, The Neon Russell Band, among others.e micro “oyster brew” designed to perfectly complement the festival’s oysters in the Aphrodisiac Lounge.
Tickets for this full-day experience of all things authentically Central Coast are $20 and are available at The first annual Central Coast Oyster Festival is sponsored by the Morro Bay Oyster Company, the Morro Bay Golf Course, the City of Morro Bay, Tap It Brewing, Element Solar, KRUSH Radio, New Times, The Cities of Los Osos/Baywood Park, Cayucos Abalone Farm, and ECO Rotary for a Zero Waste Event.


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Historic Hotels in Emerging Wine Country

Three storied properties in California’s hottest new wine zones

Agriculture and tourism have been fueling the Golden State’s economy for at least 150 years, so it’s no accident that the newest wine country hot spots are also home to historic inns and hotels.

Paso Robles Inn, Paso Robles

Positioned on the perimeter of Paso Robles’ charming City Park, the Paso Robles Inn has welcomed weary travelers to enjoy its refreshing natural hot springs since 1857 and is now one of the Historic Hotels of America featured by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The grand style of bygone days is preserved while still embracing the comforts of modern American wine country in the beautifully-appointed guest rooms, manicured courtyard garden, and elegant Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse.

Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on California’s pristine Central Coast, the Paso Robles Inn sits at the heart of what wine critic Robert Parker calls a region showing “some of the most striking potential in all of California.”  Hundreds of wineries are accessible within just steps or a few minutes in the car, many of them up-and-coming brands like Epoch, Herman Story Wines, and Linne Calodo.

1880 Union Hotel, Los Alamos

Once an original Wells Fargo stagecoach stop and telegram office, the 1880 Union Hotel is a historic landmark where “the romance of the Old West meets the beauty of wine country.”  While Los Alamos remains tiny in comparison to nearby Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara, the beautifully preserved elegance of the 1880 Union Hotel’s façade and interior décor speak to a time when this was a hub of commerce and activity.

Los Alamos has long been a sort of insider’s secret – where wine industry folks from Beringer, Meridian, Kendall Jackson and Foley Family Wines (all of whom own vineyards at either end of the valley) go to meet for a quiet drink or a relaxed meal.  But lately, smaller producers like Casa Dumetz and Bedford have opened tasting rooms in town to much acclaim.

Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites, Mendocino

Established in 1878 and voted “Best Wine Country Hotel” in 2009 and 2010 by readers of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Mendocino Hotel’s yellow “false front” façade looks out onto the windswept Mendocino Headlands where sea birds, dolphins, otters, and even whales are known to play.  The Hotel is furnished in the style of its heyday, with period-accurate antiques and a Victorian garden boasting dozens of rare roses and other plants from the 1880s.

Mendocino’s wine culture is fiercely independent – the county has been called “the birthplace of organic farming” in the California wine industry and has the highest percentage of acres farmed by sustainable/organic/biodynamic disciplines.  As such, Mendocino is bursting with authentic, family-operated wineries, including Comptche Ridge Vineyards and Maple Creek Winery.

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The Other Rhône Zone

Inside Santa Ynez Valley’s band of cool-climate Rhône producers

In recent years, Paso Robles has received its due as “The Rhône Zone” for producing rich, full, gregarious Rhône-varietal wines that have been applauded as a top wine region of the world.  Don’t believe us?  See Wine Spectator’s article, “The New Face of California Rhone Reds” featuring Justin Smith of Saxum, the 2010 Wine of the Year.  We can attest to the fact that Paso Robles and Saxum are nailing their target: We at Parker Sanpei & Associates just tasted through the Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2009 Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah blend, and swooned at its otherworldliness.  Seriously, something incredible is going on in Paso.

But just under 100 miles to the south lies another Rhône Zone – the Santa Ynez Valley – with a distinctly different climate, and wines whose personalities mirror that of Northern Rhône.  The coexistence of two divergent terroirs and styles within a major wine region is not unlike that of France’s Rhône Valley itself, whose cooler climate North produces structured and elegant Syrah-dominant wines, while the South is known for juicier Grenache-based wines.

The primary distinction between the Paso Robles Rhône Zone and that of the Santa Ynez Valley is geographical orientation.  The Paso Robles appellation is situated in a valley that runs north-south with the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west and the Cholame Hills to the east.  With the largest diurnal swing of any appellation in California (40 to 50 degrees in summer), heat-loving varieties like Grenache have put the region on the map for big, ripe flavors much like those of the Southern Rhône.

Conversely, the Santa Ynez Valley takes more after the Northern Rhône, with an east-west transverse range that allows the Pacific Ocean a significant influence over the area with near-daily fog and crisp ocean breezes.  This cooler climate leads to trimmer wines than those from Paso Robles, with firm structure, plenty of secondary flavors like white pepper and tobacco, and great potential for aging.

Even within the Santa Ynez Valley, a small band of vineyards on the northern end produce wines that bear a distinct resemblance to those of France’s famed Northern Rhône.

At the northernmost edge of this band lies Zaca Mesa Winery, whose estate vineyards host the oldest Syrah plantings in Santa Barbara County.  With cool coastal winds hitting vines at 1,500 feet, Zaca Mesa’s vineyards are ideally situated to produce graceful Syrah, while other neighboring producers also boast cool climate growing conditions suited to a restrained, Old World style of Syrah.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard

“You really notice the impact of a cool climate in our wines,” said Zaca Mesa Winemaker, Eric Mohseni.  “Our vineyard is located 1500 feet above sea level in the northern most portion of Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Unlike most of California’s coast, our valleys orient east-west, opening to the Pacific Ocean’s influences with its cooling morning fog and afternoon breeze.”

In recent years, the American palate has grown accustomed to wines made in the full-bodied Southern Rhône style, but sommeliers, chefs, and industry trendsetters cite cool climate varietal Syrah as their personal wine of choice. The complexity and elegance of cool climate Syrah allows the fruit and spice flavors of the wines to pair elegantly with a variety of foods and preparation styles. Some delicious examples include grilled meats with Moroccan spices, spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, and a host of ethnic dishes. Is Syrah an insider’s secret?

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Love’s Commitment in Wine Country

Authentic Central California weddings at Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery

Authentic, picturesque, and ideally located, Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery is the ultimate venue for a genuine Central Coast destination wedding.

Nestled among rolling hills on a 100-acre sustainably-farmed vineyard and olive grove in Templeton, Pomar Junction is a family owned and operated winery that prides itself on hosting magical weddings with a touch of country.

“Pomar Junction is different from your typical Central Coast wedding venue,” says General Manager Matt Merrill. “The property is remote yet accessible, so there’s a true sense of getting away from it all.  Also, we are an estate winery, so bridal couples can plan their ceremony anywhere on the vineyard that they choose, whether that’s on the hill overlooking the vines at sunset or under the giant oak tree by the tasting room.”

One of the most popular options for weddings at Pomar Junction Winery is tractor-pulled gondola rides for guests throughout the vineyard, especially in the summer or fall, when the vines are at their colorful peak.  For the reception, couples often choose to celebrate on the property’s central lawn.  The grand oak tree can be decorated with hanging lanterns or candles for an evening wedding, and a stage is available for the wedding party, DJ, or a live band.  A dance floor can also be constructed for dancing the night away with family and friends.

Bridal couples have the freedom to select the caterer of their choice to use the full-service Pomar Junction kitchen, located in the estate house where the wedding party can dress, relax, and prepare for the big day.  The kitchen or the large oak-pit barbecue also make for an uncomplicated rehearsal dinner on the estate, amid the vines and under the stars.

While Pomar Junction doesn’t provide set-up, they can suggest local caterers, rental shops for tents, chairs, linens, and the like.  The maximum recommended number of guests for a Pomar Junction wedding is between 200 and 250 people.  The cost for use of the venue is $2,500.

Lodging options are plentiful in Templeton, including several bed and breakfasts just a stone’s throw from Pomar Junction.  Less than a mile away lies the Hidden Hills Bed & Breakfast (, which offers luxurious comfort, a gourmet house-made breakfast, a wrap-around veranda overlooking a peaceful swimming pool, and arrangements for wine tours and private tastings across Central Coast wine country.  Also nearby are the Carriage Vineyards Inn (, and the Bike Lane Inn ( which hosts bike tours to regional wineries.

Owned and operated by the Merrill Family in the Paso Robles AVA, Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery highlights a legacy of eight generations of Central Coast farming through deeply characterful estate wines.  With a rich heritage of sustainable practices in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the cellar, Pomar Junction guides estate fruit from vine to glass with a narrow focus on purity of flavor and varietal integrity.  The winery name refers to the Merrill Family’s concurrent lineage of railroad engineers as well as to bygone days when the Southern Pacific Railroad was responsible for the development of the picturesque Central Coast.  For more information about Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, call (805) 238-9944, or visit  The Pomar Junction vineyard and tasting room are located at 5036 S. El Pomar Road in Templeton, CA 93465.

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