Monthly Archives: September 2012

Savor the Central Coast has Arrived

Tomorrow, the premier wine and food event of the West Coast kicks off in our own backyard! Savor the Central Coast, brought to you by Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, attracts more than 10,000 regional and national consumers to enjoy world-class food and wine throughout San Luis Obispo County. Held September 27 – 30, this full weekend experience offers it all.

The Main Event, hosted at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, presents attendees a plethora of opportunities to taste (both literal and experiential) all things Central Coast. As fans of the many flavors and activities on the Central Coast, we at Parker Sanpei & Associates are really looking forward to the collection of celebrity chefs, winemakers, brewmasters, fishermen, farmers, artisan culinary purveyors, local bands and Sunset lifestyle experts. Tickets to the Main Event are $85/day or $150 for the weekend; considering the abundance of choices, a weekend pass is definitely recommended.

Seminar attendees line up at Chef Central

If your plan is to see, do and taste it all, we recommend starting at the Infiniti test drive, then bouncing between the flavors of the Marketplace, Sunset at Home, Central Coast Pavilion and Farmer’s Market to Meal, before finishing your day with the festivities found in the Estrada Garden. More than 100 wineries and 30 local chefs will be featured at the Main Event. Leave time in your weekend to take the Central Coast submersion to the next level by attending one of the seminars. Only $20 each, these seminars grant access to rock star presenters including celebrity chefs and sought-after winemakers.

Of the many things we love about the Central Coast, outdoor living is always near the top of the list. Stop by the Sunset Garden & Backyard Farm and see how this two-acre space has been transformed, thanks to a new Savor partnership with Sage Ecological Landscape & Nursery of Los Osos, into an edible outdoor escape. Fill your imagination with inspiration for your next backyard project as you wander amongst the herbs, vegetables, orchards, beehives, chicken coops and more.

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Beyond the Ranch, Savor offers three upscale dining occasions, bringing together the food, wine and ambiance of the Central Coast. On Thursday evening, the opening night dinner, held around the spectacular Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, provides an exclusive and elegant beginning to the weekend that our team can hardly wait to enjoy ($125/person). Friday’s festivities takes you down to Pismo Beach for a tasting of the winners of the Sunset International Wine Competition and a multi-course dinner prepared by a collaboration of chefs from along this coastal region ($125/person). Your third option, held Saturday evening, is at Windfall Farms in Paso Robles Wine Country. Taste the terroir of Paso Robles wines and the delectable flavors of local renowned restaurants, fulfilling the wine-lover’s dream ($75/person).

Life on the Central Coast – food, wine, people, climate, experience – the list goes on and on. Sunset Savor the Central Coast offers visitors and locals a full spectrum of opportunities to celebrate the pristine beaches, renowned wine regions, delectable foods and historic treasures that all contribute to this one-of-a-kind location. Visit to learn more, buy tickets, and join the slow down and savor lifestyle.


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Going Solar at Pomar Junction

As the summer temperatures began heating up in July, Dana Merrill of Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery received the exciting news of additional support for the winery’s recent innovative changes. That month it was announced that Pomar’s new solar panels had been selected as one of 450 projects for inclusion in the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This unique program offers grant funds to agriculture producers and rural small businesses in support of projects that reduce energy consumption and costs through the use of renewable energy technologies.

Pomar Junction, proudly one of the first wineries to be certified Sustainable in Practice

Pomar Junction, one of the first vineyards to be certified Sustainable in Practice (SIP) by the Central Coast Vineyard Team, has led the Paso Robles wine community in minimalizing environmental impact. Solar had been on Dana’s mind since his son, Matt Merrill, the winery’s general manager, first installed panels on his own home. Inspired by Matt’s monthly savings, Dana also installed home panels. “At my house, I had been paying something like four-hundred to eight-hundred dollars per month for five acres’ worth of electricity, but after going solar, my bill is now seven dollars a month.  I knew that if I could save that much at home, it only made sense to go solar on a bigger scale at the winery, too.”

REC Solar was a natural partner to complete the installation. In addition to knowledge regarding solar services, they also stay current on the many opportunities afforded when integrating solar. REC Solar introduced Dana to the benefits Pomar Junction qualified for through applying to the REAP grant program.

Pomar Junction’s continued commitment to operate an environmentally conscious winery meant they were already aware of the fact that their temperature-controlled warehouses, used for the storage of barrels and wine, were the primary culprits of energy consumption. Located in the Paso Robles AVA, a winegrowing region known for its extreme daily temperature swings, Dana quickly identified the chance to capitalize on the unique climate to reduce cooling costs with the installation of a passive cooling system. This system uses louvers connected to temperature sensors to allow cool air into the warehouse when the outdoor temperature is below 65˚, creating a natural cooling effect. The modification resulted in dramatic improvements but Dana knew solar could further reduce energy costs. “The passive cooling system covered about sixty percent of our cooling needs at the time,” he said. “But in really hot weather, it could cost up to twenty-five-hundred dollars more per month to keep the buildings at a reasonable temperature for wine storage.”

The newly installed solar panels, tucked away from view sitting atop the roofs of the two warehouse buildings, are now fully productive and provide the additional energy needed. Tapped into the energy grid, Pomar Junction looks forward to building an energy credit during the cooler months and using that credit in the hotter summer, resulting in thousands of dollars of savings each year. Dana and Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery offer a model story of maximizing the efficiency and minimizing the environmental impact of daily winery operations.

Dana and Matt Merrill in the vineyard

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Muse on the fringe

Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard a favorite source for Rhône and Bordeaux fruit

When seeking a muse for creating soulful Rhône and Bordeaux wines, many top winemakers are turning to the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard on the eastern fringe of Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard

Lino Bozzano

Hidden in the Santa Barbara County Mountains, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard is situated in the Cuyama Valley, 50 miles east of the nearest city of Santa Maria.  “Highlands isn’t exactly bustling with tourists, which is a huge part of its appeal,” said Lino Bozzano, VP of Vineyard Operations for Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery, which owns the property.

Altitude is the most influential characteristic of the Highlands Vineyard on wines produced from its fruit. At elevations ranging from 2,200 to 3,400 feet above sea level, Highlands is one of the Central Coast’s highest altitude vineyards, making for a dramatic swing in temperature variation.  In fact, the temperature at the vineyard can vary by as much as 50 degrees in the span of 24 hours.  This vast diurnal swing is particularly beneficial for Rhône and Bordeaux varietal grapes, which need steady sunshine and warmth for full ripening, and cold nights to preserve the balance of natural acids.

Originally called “Barnwood Vineyards” Santa Barbara Highlands was established in 1982 by Larry Hogan, who saw uncanny similarities in terroir between Cuyama and Napa Valley.  While the property was acquired by Laetitia in 1998, Hogan continues to use fruit from Santa Barbara Highlands for his Stone Pine Estate and Sagebrush Annie’s wine labels.

Eric Hickey

Laetitia’s sister label, NADIA, is dedicated to showcasing Highlands Vineyard fruit.  Made by Laetitia Winemaker, Eric Hickey, new vintage releases include:

  • 2011 NADIA Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 NADIA White (a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne)
  • 2010 NADIA Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2010 NADIA Grenache

While NADIA wines have first pick at the Highlands Vineyard, a new wave of young, celebrated winemakers claim Highlands as a muse for their craft.  “I get over half of my fruit from Highlands, so I’m a big believer in the place,” said Curt Schalchlin, winemaker for the cult brand Sans Liege Wines, whose Highlands wines consistently earn praise from fans and critics alike.  “It was my first love – my first vineyard source for my first vintage in 2003.  Highlands is a truly unique vineyard, and Lino Bozzano does an incredible job with it.  We are so grateful to him for the quality of the fruit out there.” Other Highlands devotees include McPrice Myers of McPrice Myers Wine Co., Russell From of Herman Story Wines, and Angela Osborne of Grace Wine Co

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Wine: just another reason that California is the greatest state in the Union.

Governor Jerry Brown has proclaimed the month of September California Wine Month in recognition of the wine industry’s critical impact on California tourism, economy, and quality of life.  This is the eighth consecutive year that September has been acknowledged as California Wine Month, a designation shepherded by the Wine Institute, whose mission is to initiate and advocate public policy that enhances the production, promotion, and responsible enjoyment of wine.

According to the Wine Institute, “California Wine Month in September was proclaimed by Governor Jerry Brown to highlight the state’s rich wine history and all that its vintners and growers add to the lifestyle and economy of the Golden State. September is harvest time and the perfect time to toast the state’s ideal winegrowing climate, beautiful wine country landscape, our talented and ingenious winemaking families, our celebrated lifestyle and cuisine, and our commitment to sustainability and the environment.”

Coinciding with the annual winegrape harvest, several consumer tastings will take place across the state to celebrate California Wine Month.  With over 70 California wines, artisanal cheeses and salumi, these tastings will take place at The Peninsula Beverly Hills from 6-9 pm on Thursday, September 6; and at the San Francisco Ferry Building Grand Hall from 2-5 pm on Saturday, September 22.  For tickets, please visit

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