Favorites in Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, and the City of San Luis Obispo

Signpost in Edna Valley

Signpost in Edna Valley

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Wine region runs from the Santa Lucia Mountain Range down to the Pacific Ocean, with over 25 wineries near the cities of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, and Arroyo Grande.  This is also the home of the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande AVAs.  The marine influences of the Pacific Ocean result in cool summers and warm autumns here, so the growing season is a long one.  Visitors to this area can easily ride a bike through the rolling hills of wine country, lay out on a white sand beach, and taste some fabulous wine all in the same day if they wish.

Favorite Wineries in the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, and City of San Luis Obispo areas

Baileyana Winery (and Cadre, Tangent, Trenza and Zocker)There are plenty of spots here to relax, picnic, or play bocce ball and this place can get crowded at times.  The Niven Family Wine Estates is a grouping of five different wineries focused on separate types of wine but the Baileyana tasting room has wine from all five. Depending on what is on the tasting menu for the day (and/or happens to be open), you can try Baileyana (estate wines from the Firepeak Vineyard), Cadre (South Central Coast Pinot Noir), Tangent (alternative whites), Trenza (Spanish-inspired blends), and Zocker (Grüner Veltliner and Riesling) wines. We tend to prefer the Zocker and Trenza wines here the most.  5828 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo, (805) 269-8200

Chamisal VineyardsChamisal (pronounced Sham-iss-all) Vineyard, named for the fragrant Chamise (a native white-flowered shrub that thrived on the property) was the very first vineyard planted in Edna Valley (in 1973).  The 80-acre property is primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a few acres of Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Gris.  The excellent staff here will guide you through a tasting either in the converted barn (with interesting photos on the wall) or outside on their patio. We like the Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir a lot.  This property is where Domaine Alfred used to be.  7525 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo, (805) 541-9463

Clesi Wines – Led by owner/winemaker Christopher Ferrara, this small high-quality winery is focused on wines made from Italian varietals grown and produced on California’s Central Coast.     Their tasting room is at the end of the drive at Filipponi Ranch in San Luis Obispo and this is a nice rustic place to have your picnic lunch.   Clesi is a family name, from ancestors who migrated from Sicily, and the winery’s logo is a modernized version of the trinacria symbol on the Sicilian flag.  We particularly enjoyed the Barbera, Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Aglianico here.     1850 Calle Joaquin, San Luis Obispo  (805-286-5073)

Edna Valley VineyardThe panoramic view of Edna Valley from the tasting room is awesome, as the entire back wall behind the tasting bar is covered with windows looking out onto the valley and the vineyards (obviously, more impressive when the vines are in full growth, but still a lovely sight any time of the year).  We are particularly fond of the Chardonnays here.  This is also one of the best retail environments in Edna Valley with housewares, cookbooks and culinary items for sale.  2585 Biddle Ranch Road, San Luis Obispo, (805) 544-5855

Kynsi WineryThe tasting room at this family-owned winery is in a converted 1940s dairy.  Great wines here, and we are particularly fond of Kynsi’s Bien Nacido Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (from Santa Maria Valley), their Edna Valley and Stone Corral Estate Pinot Noirs and the Kalanna Syrah.  The name “Kynsi” is a Finnish word for “talon,” an homage to the winery’s beloved barn owls who helped eradicate the gopher problem when the winery was first being started.  2212 Corbett Canyon Road (Highway 227), (805) 544-8461

Piedra Creek WineryYou’re not going to find this old-school Italian winery started by Romeo Zuech and his wife Margaret in most of the SLO wine country directories but it’s worth the effort to search them out.  If you come here for tasting, you’re basically tasting on the back porch of their house in a gated community.   The wines here can be very good, particularly the Lagrein which is a varietal you don’t find in a lot of places.  6425 Mira Cielo, San Luis Obispo, (805) 541-1281  [Reservation Required]

Stephen Ross Wine CellarsStephen Ross Dooley is the former winemaker for Edna Valley Vineyard and he started a winery under his own name in 1994 which specializes in Vineyard-Designated Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. Stephen believes that wine is made in the vineyard so he sources fruit from the best vineyards he can.  The tasting room location is in an industrial park but don’t let that deter you – the wines here are excellent. Some of our favorites here are the Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, the Rosé, the Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir, the Stone Corral Pinot Noir and the Chorro Creek Pinot Noir.   178 Suburban Road, San Luis Obispo, (805) 594-1318

Talley Vineyards/Bishop’s PeakTalley Vineyards was founded in 1986 and is one of the best wineries in the San Luis Obispo area. Their second label is Bishop’s Peak, and you will find the large and spacious tasting room pouring wines from both labels (although we prefer the Talley wines).  The Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here are the main draw and we are very big fans of the Pinots, particularly the Arroyo Valley, Edna Valley, and Rosemary’s Vineyard. The grounds here are also very attractive, and there are some tables out front if you are in the mood for a picnic.  3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande, (805) 489-0446

Wolff Vineyards Winery is located on 125 acres of ecologically friendly property and the vineyards here include 55 acres of Chardonnay vines with additional acreage devoted to Riesling, Pinot Noir, Teroldego, Syrah and Petite Sirah varietals.  You’ll have direct sight of the vineyards either through the cathedral windows inside the tasting room or from the patio outside (weather permitting).  Exemplary customer service, and our favorite wines are the Old Vine Chardonnay, Teroldego and Petite Sirah.  6238 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo  (805) 781-0448

Favorite Food Stops in the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, and City of San Luis Obispo Areas

Big Sky Cafe – Since 1994, this bustling and popular little café in downtown San Luis Obispo has been offering up delicious fresh market cuisine.   We prefer it for breakfast or lunch but they also serve dinner.  Be prepared for a wait for a seat.   1121 Broad Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 545-5401

Buona Tavola – Excellent northern Italian cuisine and our favorite place for dinner (although they are also open for lunch during the week).  Our favorites here are the salads (especially the Insalata di Parma) and the pastas.   1037 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 545-8000

Coastal Peaks Coffee – This coffee shop and café in southern SLO with a large lounge and unlimited wi-fi offers locally roasted coffees, teas, breakfast and lunch items, pastries, and smoothies.   This is one of the rare places where you can get your coffee prepared through Chemex, French Press, Cold Brew, Air Press, Turkish, or Siphon-brewing methods.  They offer more than 35 different coffee blends and varietals for purchase (online or in person), and so far our personal favorites are the Costa Rican Honey, Bali Kintamini and the Patagonia.  3536 South Higuera Street, Suite 250, San Luis Obispo, (805) 541-1186

Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab – Come here for hand-crafted, super-premium ice cream in a nostalgic ice cream parlor with a choo-choo train that keeps circling above.  Flavors here are fresh and well-made, and some of the more interesting ones (like Sea Salt Caramel, Red Velvet Cake, Doc’s Java and Guinness) are tremendously well made.  114 W. Branch Road, Arroyo Grande and 860 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo (805) 474-4068 

Ember – The focus of this outstanding restaurant from Chef/Owner Brian Collins is on serving authentic hand-crafted food cooked by a wood fire. However, they don’t take reservations so you should either come early in the evening or be prepared to wait for a table (or you can try to grab a seat at the bar).  We heartily recommend the Farmer’s Market Salad (with Buttermilk-Tarragon Dressing) and Pepperoni Pizza with Pasilla Peppers and Red Onion.  The menu here changes monthly and a recent seasonal dish we loved was Almond Wood-Roasted Asparagus with Burrata Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Blood Orange Citronette. Ember’s wine list features wines primarily from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties and the craft beer program features 18 drafts of fresh and seasonal locally brewed beers. 1200 East Grand Avenue, Suite 101, Arroyo Grande  (805) 474-7700 

Eureka! Burger – The charbroiled burgers at this popular chain restaurant (fifteen in California) are made with 100% Vegetarian Fed, Hormone & Antibiotic Free, All Natural Beef.  Come here for excellent Craft Beer and gourmet burger choices such as these:  Original Eureka!Burger (Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickle), Cowboy (Cheddar, Onion Rings, Bacon, BBQ Sauce), Napa (Oven Roasted Tomato, Havarti Cheese, Fried Pancetta),  Fig Marmalade (Marmalade, Goat Cheese, Bacon), and Jalapeño Egg (Egg, Cheddar, Bacon, Jalapeños).  If needed, there are also a half dozen salads to choose from.   1141 Chorro Street, San Luis Obispo  (805-903-1141)

Firestone Grill – You will find plenty of places serving BBQ tri-tip sandwiches in the SLO area, but this is our favorite.  The large bar area inside has multiple large screen TVs showing sports games, and there is a huge patio outside but there will almost certainly be a line of people waiting to place their orders.  This is a good late-night destination because they are open until 10 pm, or 11 pm on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Firestone also does burgers well.  1001 Higuera Street, #A, San Luis Obispo  (805) 783-1001

Fromagerie Sophie – This is one of the best cheese purveyors we have come across, and the delightful shop offers more than just cheeses.  In addition to cheeses from around the world (such as Brillat Saverin, Tomme de Fontenay, Sottocenere al Tartufo, Ossau Iraty, Holey Cow, Humboldt Fog, Mt. Tam and Colston Basset Stilton) they also sell French caramels, butter biscuits, confitures, olives, and mustards.  And, home chefs should know that the store also carries sometimes-difficult-to-find items such as Preserved Lemons, Duck Confit, Truffle Salt, Dried Porcini and Fleur de Sel.  The staff here are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, and the namesake’s Ms. Boban-Doering is charming as well.  1129 Garden Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 503-0805

The Giant Grinder Shop – Brad Fuller, creator of the original Giant Grinder in Long Beach, now operates a second outlet in San Luis Obispo with his wife Sherri.  Pay attention to the name here because these delicious sandwiches made with fresh local ingredients start at 9” and just go from there.  There’s a choice of rolls here and you can select among Cold (Roast Beef, Black Forest Ham, Smoked Turkey, Veggie, etc.), Hot (Meatball, Sausage, Pastrami, etc.) and Signature Combos such as Chicken Breast & Prosciutto or the East Coast Combo with Mortadella, Italian Salami and Capicolla. There are also a handful of Green Salads including a Chef’s Salad and Chicken Caesar Salad.  1901 Broad Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 543-6700. 

Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana – For over 20 years, Giuseppe’s has been known for great wine and Italian food although we only recently discovered them.  Their specialties are indicative of the Pugliese region and we were highly impressed by the food here, based on local, sustainable, and organic products wherever possible.  Bread is baked from scratch daily in a wood-burning oven (where they also make over 10 pizzas).  Pastas include Gnocchi, Capellini alla Checca, Lasagna Bolognese, Linguine Vongole, and Orecchiette e Braciole (Braised Flank Steak, Garlic, Herbs, Romano, and Tomato Ragu).  891 Price Street, Pismo Beach  (805-773-2870)

High Street Market and Deli – Funky little hole-in-the-wall deli with the best sandwiches in town.  Come here in the morning and get the fixings for an afternoon picnic while you’re out wine tasting. Choices include a BLT, Turkey Pesto, California Roast Beef (with Ortega Chile, Pepperjack and Avocado), and their Highzenburger (Meatloaf, Bacon, Cheddar, Chipotle Mayo, BBQ Sauce).  If you want, you can download a printable order form from their website.  Not a lot of seating available on site, so avoid the rush hour or make your order to-go.  350 High Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 541-4738

House of Bread – At the southwest end of downtown SLO’s Higuera Street, this bakery is worth seeking out (be prepared for a very small parking lot, but there is plenty of street parking available).  There is a rotating list of fresh breads and pastries baked each day, although Grandma’s White, Honey Whole Wheat, Squaw, Apple Cinnamon Swirl, Basil Parmesan, and Garlic Cheddar are frequently made.  Other baked goods include Cinnamon Rolls, Hot Cross Buns, and a variety of Muffins, Scones, and Cookies.  At lunch, sandwiches are made with their breads and Boar’s Head gourmet meats.   299 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo  (805-542-0255)

Linnaea’s Café – Our favorite place for coffee in downtown San Luis Obispo.  Whether you want regular coffee or an espresso-based option, the coffee here is superb and there is free Wi-Fi for customers.  Linnaea’s also serves as a venue for local artists and musical performers.  1110 Garden Street, San Luis Obispo (805) 541-5888 

Louisa’s Place – Open at 6 am 7 days a week and offering “great food and great service since 1976,” Louisa’s has been voted “Best Breakfast” in San Luis Obispo County over fifteen times.  The décor is old-fashioned diner and the menu is extensive, with breakfast options including 4-Egg Omelettes, Biscuits & Gravy, Chorizo Con Huevos, Breakfast Burrito, Eggs Benedict and a Breakfast Sandwich.  If you’re in the mood for pancakes, you’ve got a decision to make: Buttermilk, Chocolate Chip, Sourdough, Buckwheat or Honeywheat?  964 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo  (805) 541-0227

Old West Cinnamon Rolls – Delicious and not-too-sweet cinnamon rolls served the way you like it (and probably as early as you want it because they open at 6:30 am).  You can order the Original, or get it with raisins, walnuts, raisins and walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a crumb topping (and then you get to decide “yes” or “no” on the cream cheese frosting).  Around for 40 years, and they also ship orders (vacuum-sealed to preserve freshness)861 Dolliver Street, Pismo Beach  (805) 773-1428

Penny’s All American Café – If you’re looking for a casual family-friendly breakfast café which is adored by locals and is so good they’ve been around for over ten years, this is your place.  Come here for a wide range of tasty food choices and efficient service.   Breakfast starts at 6 am (7 am on weekends) and includes the usual suspects (Omelettes, Scrambles, Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Waffles, or Biscuits and Gravy) although you should also check out their daily specials before deciding.   1053 Price Avenue, Pismo Beach  (805-773-3776)

Scout – The décor may be minimalist, but the coffee is excellent at this downtown specialty coffee shop that opened in January 2014.   Owners Jon and Sara Peterson both worked previously for Verve Coffee Roasters, and Sara is an accomplished barista on the national stage, so they know their stuff.   Quite frankly, we think every coffee shop should follow their lead and offer Affogato as a regular menu item.   1130 Garden Street, San Luis Obispo, (805) 439-2175

 

Other Helpful Links

SLO Wine Country – The San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association is a non-profit organization promoting local wineries and vineyards.  Major events sponsored each year are the Roll Out The Barrels Weekend (in June) and Harvest Celebration Weekend (in November).

Big Sky Cafe on UrbanspoonBuona Tavola on UrbanspoonFirestone Grill on UrbanspoonHigh Street Market & Deli on Urbanspoon
Linnaea's Cafe on UrbanspoonDoc Burnsteins Ice Cream Lab on UrbanspoonOld West Cinnamon Rolls on Urbanspoon
Eureka! on UrbanspoonGiuseppe's Italian Restaurant on UrbanspoonHouse Of Bread on UrbanspoonPenny's All American Cafe' on Urbanspoon

 


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