Thanks to a Direct Flight, This Breathtaking Wine Region is Within Easy Reach From Seattle

August 23, 2017

Jessica Yadegaran

There’s nothing quite like uncorking a bottle of something crisp with the summer breeze tickling your skin and the waves of California’s rugged Central Coast crashing in the distance. In the surf- and wine-country region of San Luis Obispo, cool-climate varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive, and soils frequently laced with ancient sea fossils make for some stellar white, rosé and sparkling wines. 

The county (240 miles south of San Francisco) is home to more than 200 wineries. The bulk of them are in the northern region of Paso Robles, where big, bold reds like Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon rule. The winemaking regions of San Luis Obispo and neighboring Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley are around 30 miles south (a straight, typically lightly trafficked shot down U.S. Highway 101). For a few days of wine tasting, stick to those valleys, which are closer to the beach and airport, and offer a small cluster of boutique and family-owned wineries. 

Start in the Edna Valley at Baileyana, the flagship winery of the Niven family, which has been making wine here for 30 years. Today, Burgundian-born winemaker Christian Roguenant produces 30 wines under five labels, including two sparklers and a zippy lime-tinged Grüner Veltliner, a dry white wine that grows almost exclusively in Austria. Do your tasting inside the sunny 1909 schoolhouse winery or bring your glass outside for sips between rounds of bocce. The picnic area (bring your own noshes or buy cheese, salami and crackers from the tasting room) overlooks the estate vineyard and the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Three miles south, in the heart of the Edna Valley, is Claiborne & Churchill, a winery founded in 1983 that specializes in Alsatian-style aromatic white wines, such as Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Purchase a cheese plate and taste wines in the garden, or book an overnight stay in the renovated farmhouse cottage.

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