The Central Coast of California has been overlooked for far too long. The area is roughly bordered by Monterey to the north, Paso Robles to the east, Santa Barbara to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Central Coast is home to a vast array of vineyards, farms, orchards of all kinds and lovely beach towns that are leading the way in using the best sustainable products from the land and sea.
Sunset Magazine's SAVOR the Central Coast is a new, four-day food and wine event dedicated to celebrating the beauty and bounty of this area. The inaugural year drew 7,200 participants to Santa Margarita Ranch and locations throughout San Luis Obispo County. The event is a partnership between Sunset Magazine, the premier publication of Living in the West, and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau. The majority of SAVOR attendees came from California, but also some from as far away as Canada, Florida, Texas, Washington and Oregon came to sip and savor the best from the Central Coast.
Walking into the main event was quite overwhelming at first. Guests had the opportunity to put a brand new Volvo through its paces on a test track or take a train once owned by Walt Disney himself around the sprawling ranch. The main event also featured a magnificent Farmers' Market sponsored by The California Farm Bureau Federation that gave attendees the opportunity to come face-to-face with the growers who feed the country. There was also the Sunset Kitchen Garden, a 2-acre garden planted specifically for the event that was at its peak just in time for guests to stroll through. Demonstrations there explained how to mix fruit trees, vegetables and flowers for a garden that will not only please the palate but the eyes as well.
The Savor Market Place was the center of most of the activity at the main event. Over 100 wineries from Monterey to Ventura were on-hand pouring some of their AVAs best. Ampelos Cellars was one of our first stops and we enjoyed their very nice organic, sustainable and biodynamic wines from the Sta Rita Hills. Of course, a few legends were there as well. Kenneth Volk, a winemaker that has been making some of the finest wines in California for over a quarter century was there treating us to his best. Michael Michaud, Chateau Margene, Justin, Tangent, and Byron wineries were all pouring their well-known and legendary wines.
When you attend an event this large, not only do you want to visit the famous names, but you should seek out new wineries as well. We did just that. Kynsi Winery in Arroyo Grande is a small family-owned winery specializing in growing cool weather varietals. We enjoyed their Ben Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2007. This Syrah showed off the special characteristics of smoke and spice of the vineyard's micro-climate. Cerro Prieto Cellars in Paso Robles is a true boutique vineyard only producing 1 ton/acre. They recently scored two international gold medals in their first year. We sampled their great wines and were impressed.
The Seminars had something for everyone to enjoy and learn. The "Fresh from the Fields Breakfast" was hosted by Sunset Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony and provided attendees with a true California breakfast that illustrated how to incorporate locally grown products into your morning meal. Sunset Food Editor Margo True showed guests the difference between different cuts of lamb in her very educational seminar. Not to be out done, Chef Tyler Florence of the Food Network hosted "Dinner at My Place" and prepared his ultimate seafood dish. From learning about Riedel Wine glassware, to a Battle of Morro Bay Chefs, and a Goat Cheese Overview, guests truly had the opportunity to sip, savor and learn more about the Central Coast.
The event also served a backdrop for the 35 noted chefs from the Central Coast region who provided wine-paired tastes using the region’s freshest ingredients, including 100 percent sustainable seafood and locally raised lamb, beef, poultry, eggs, cheeses and dairy products, as well as produce and herbs.
Even the weather cooperated as the first SAVOR came to an end. Outdoor winemaker dinners were untouched by unusual thunder and lightning storms, and the fog stayed away for the finale dinner and concert by Amos Lee and Chris Isaak, which was followed by a spectacularly extravagant fireworks display over San Luis Bay.
Sunset Magazine's ionaugural SAVOR the Central Coast provided guests three days of food, wine and entertainment and showed the world how special the Central Coast of California is. This fertile area has been overlooked for a very long time but with the success of the first SAVOR the Central Coast that is sure to change. We look forward to the event next year, and having already started off on the road to success, we're sure it will be even better.