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Passport to the SLO Vintners Roll Out the Barrels Weekend



By G. Stassi. The charm of the Central Coast never ceases to amaze me. I love it when it’s fogged in; when its sun drenched; when it’s hopping at the Fourth of July; and when it’s raining down on the tents of a fall wine festival. Mostly, I prefer when it’s quiet and there’s a full moon and I can hear the ebb n’ flow of the sea caressing the shore. For years, I lived in Manhattan Beach in an old charming house that rested on top of a tiny garage that could only fit my narrow Alfa Romeo. The walls were white washed and the windows faced the sea. I would sleep with my windows open even in winter just to listen to the pacific. Whether I was up composing an article in my head or just trying to get out from under the weight of the day, it hypnotized me. Oh how I loved that place — life was so much simpler then — I had the luxury to write all day, paint all day and garden tomatoes and roses and the fruits of my labor were great both professionally and horticulturally.

Recently, I have been able to get back to the focus I had in those days a little more — I’ve found a little more solace since the circumstances of my life have changed. My dad used to say that life went in five year cycles and when I do the math, he’s was pretty accurate. It’s a prime example of how we think our parents are lecturing or just talking some nonsense until we become adults and parents and realize that many times, there was some truth to their pondering and shared philosophies. I think of many things and clearly remember him saying, “if you listen, you just might learn something” as I walked away from another lecture with rolling eyes. So getting back to my quest for peace and quiet, I found a great place at the Lighthouse Suites. I am always cautiously optimistic when trying new lodgings. I think of myself as being a very realistic traveller. I set the bar at different levels for different occasions but always starting at neat and clean. I’ve stayed at swanky places like Shades in Manhattan Beach for the Austin Powers Experience to sleep on the most comfortable tempur-pedic mattress a body can possibly experience; at revamped classic old resorts and hotels like the Langdon in Pasadena. Since I’ve stayed at too many places up and down the Central Coast of California to recall, I thought I’d try the Lighthouse Suites in Pismo Beach. I had been suffering from a very serious case of writer’s block for sometime and needed a place to work it out.

I knew the moment that I walked in this place that I had found it. My ocean front suite greeted me with billowing curtains and sun shining in and immediately beckoned me to the warmth of the sun on the balcony and what a view — it was as unimpeded as I needed my mind to become. The white-washed and light blue walls with tasteful simple, nautical decor reminded me of my little slice of heaven in Manhattan Beach with a touch of my beloved Mother-in-law Helen’s cozy New England home on Warwick Neck Rhode, Island.An ocean view, one bedroom – two bath suite can easily sleep four.  The property is positioned on a very quiet corner and my balcony was directly over a narrow strip of beach, therefore, nothing was between me and the sea stretching to the horizon.

On the Central Coast, each property has it’s own personality; the Lighthouse is beach living at its casual best with amazing access and views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s located in a great part of Pismo that never seems too crowded during the high season but you can still walk to the pier and downtown to stop at Tastes of the Valleys or Sans Liege for great Central Coast Wine Tasting.  It’s also an easy stroll to some of the neighboring restaurants at the surrounding resorts like Ventana Grill and Steamers.

I went to the first night of the SLO Vintners Association’s Roll Out the Barrels that began with the Grand Tasting at the San Luis Mission — a very well-attended event. It was a beautiful, lovely warm evening in the charming downtown. Some of the best of Central California’s veteran and artisan winemakers were in attendance. Ancient Peaks, Center of Effort, Valor, Talley, Tolosa, Baileyana and Laetitia were all pouring some of their best wines as well as the local restaurants offering their delectable Wine Country inspired cuisine.

After a fabulous night of tasting, it was nice to return to my suite and sleep with my windows open, breathe in the fresh sea breeze and listen to the ocean. The king bed was nicely dressed in a crisp high-quality linens and a warm soft comforter with a generous amount to pillows. In the morning, it was pure joy to wake early and make my own coffee, indulge in the blueberries I had picked up the day before on my drive up the 101, check my emails and begin my day. I was able to settle at the comfortable desk situated next to the large glass doors that opened onto my oceanfront balcony. It was heaven for someone who seems to be in a a constant state of tardiness and distraction; all my needs were being met and I didn’t have to leave and face the great possibility of being sidetracked.

On Saturday, with my RollOutTheBarrels Passport in hand, I was ready to begin the third day of the festival by going to open houses at the different wineries. I started at one of my very favorite co-op wineries, Center of Effort, to see winemaker Mike Sinor and enjoy his Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. His wines are always a favorite with me. He makes a truly refreshing, crisp, citrusy and clean Sauvignon Blanc under his own label, Valor.

Winemaker Mike Sinor

Our next stop was to Kynsi, another superb veteran, winemaker. This festival gave each winery the opportunity to express their own style and culture as well as showcase their wines and wineries. Kynsi is a small family-owned winery producing award winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They served barbecued pulled-pork sandwiches with savory, spicy beans and cole slaw. It was a very casual and fun atmosphere with their patrons sitting on picnic blankets listening the band.

Our third stop was Talley, a breathtakingly beautiful establishment and a huge good crowd. With it’s California Mission-style architecture, and infinite vineyard views, we were treated to five different stations and food pairings. We began with tasting Talley Chardonnay; next, an exquisite barrel-tasting of Pinot Noir, and then, a generous Hearst Ranch Beef Prime Rib Sandwich and slaw. For dessert, we finished with the most sinful pairing of them all: moist dark chocolate brownies paired with a peppery, gorgeous New World-style Syrah.

Since it was my last evening at the Lighthouse Suites, I was happy to return to my lovely suite, make a cup of hot tea, crawl into my big fluffy bed and order a movie. Needless to say, the movie had much to be desired — but the comfort and relaxation of the evening didn’t need a thing. The SLO Vintner’s Roll Out The Barrels Festival is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wines, winemakers, wineries and vineyards of this rich, exciting and growing wine region of California and my lodging at Pismo Beach’s Lighthouse Suites was a perfect pairing for a very enjoyable weekend.

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