Touring the Edna Valley

Sunset

Sunset in a still-rural valley

Nik Wheeler

The Edna Valley, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, winds for a dozen miles from Arroyo Grande to San Luis Obispo off State 227. For more area information, contact the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau ( www.sanluisobispocounty.com, 800/634-1414, or 805/541-8000).

The San Luis Obispo Vintners & Growers Association ( www.slowine.com or 805/541-5868) publishes an excellent free map and guide (available throughout the valley) with detailed information on tasting-room hours and tours. May 4-8, the vintners association holds its annual Roll Out the Barrels event (tickets from $10; contact the association for details), which features tastings, a San Luis Obispo wine and restaurant tour, and barrel tastings of future offerings from most Edna Valley wineries.

 

Wineries

Here are some of our favorites.

1. Talley Vineyards. Drive through a third-generation farm producing fields of cilantro and bell peppers to get to this winery, known for its Rincon and Rosemary's Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 10:30-4:30 daily; $4 tasting fee. 3031 Lopez Dr., Arroyo Grande; 805/489-0446.

2. Alban Vineyards. John Alban's winery isn't open for tours or tastings, but his wines are well worth searching out. Find Alban wines at Central Coast Wines (712 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo; 805/784-9463) and De Palo & Sons Fine Wines (2665-L Shell Beach Rd., Shell Beach; 805/773-1589).

3. Domaine Alfred. Makes two Chardonnays, a California style (lots of oak) and a French style (crisp, clean, with lots of minerality). Its Pinot Gris is an Alsatian-style wine with rich fruit flavor. 10-5 daily; $6 tasting fee. 7525 Orcutt Rd., San Luis Obispo; 805/541-9463.

4. Edna Valley Vineyard. Best known for Chardonnays with a peachy character and sea-salt finish, but the Pinot Noirs, with dark, tar characters and meaty fruit flavors, are coming on strong. Jack Niven Hospitality Center has an extensive selection of wine-related books, clothing, and gourmet foods. 10-5 daily; no tasting fee. 2585 Biddle Ranch Rd., San Luis Obispo; 888/390-9463 or 805/544-5855.

5. Baileyana. Winemaker Christian Roguenant's soft, silky Pinot Noirs are laced with lots of black cherry and a touch of sage. The Chardonnay always has hints of pear and, in warmer years, pineapple and tropical fruit. 10-5 daily; $3 tasting fee. 5828 Orcutt, San Luis Obispo; 805/269-8200.

6. Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. Stephen Ross Dooley's winery does not have a tasting room, but visitors can purchase wines on-site. Call for hours. 4910 Edna Rd., Ste. A, San Luis Obispo; 805/594-1318.

7. Tolosa Winery. Garnet-colored Pinot Noirs with plush, spiced berries and flinty Chardonnays are typical of the valley's taste profiles. 11-6 daily; $4 tasting fee. 4910 Edna Rd., San Luis Obispo; 866/782-0300 or 805/782-0300.

 

Dining

There's only one real dining option within the Edna Valley, Fiala's Gourmet Deli and Cafe. But nearby San Luis Obispo has two particularly wine-friendly restaurants.

Blue. The eclectic cuisine - fresh local rock crab or a grilled flatiron steak in a Port-reduction sauce - seems tailor-made for the Edna Valley's Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. $$$; dinner daily. 998 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo; 805/783-1135.

Cafe Roma. Rustic Italian dishes like pasta with lamb sausage ragout are a perfect match with Edna Valley Rhônes and Pinot Noirs. $$$; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat. 1020 Railroad Ave., San Luis Obispo; 805/541-6800.

Fiala's Gourmet Deli and Cafe. A charming place for a meal, or, if you're feeling outdoorsy, order a picnic lunch of gourmet meats and cheeses. Don't miss the grilled paninis. $; breakfast and lunch daily. 1653 Old Price Canyon Rd., San Luis Obispo; 805/543-1313.

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