When many people think about California, they think of San Diego, LA, and of course the wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma. What they don’t know is that California is the “salad bowl" of the United States, and world-class wines are made all over the state. One shining star that has long showcased all that the western United States has to offer is Sunset magazine, which recently held their second annual Savor the Central Coast festival at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, about halfway between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. Home base may have been the ranch, but the event showed off the bounty of California’s Central Coast, from Paso Robles to Pismo Beach.
Guests that attended this four-day extravaganza were joined by the Sunset magazine editors, celebrity chefs, Food Network stars, renowned winemakers, and some of the finest food purveyors in the country, who sipped and dined their way across the fertile valleys of the central coast. The festival wasted no time in getting things started right; the first event was a reception at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Strolling through the beautiful gardens, bubbles in hand, while gazing at the Neptune Pool is a great way to start any festival. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/ir0cko)
The second day had something for everyone, from a trip to the coastal village of Cayucos and the Ocean Rose Abalone Farm to a visit to Morro Bay and the Morro Bay Oyster Company for an oyster-happy lunch. Attendees who like to stay on dry land went to Happy Acres Family Farm, a working dairy run by four women and their families. Anyone who’s ever yearned after an idyllic view could choose to hike (or trolley) to the farm for a tour, followed by lunch at the Point San Luis Lighthouse. Then, the First Crush Berry to Bottle Winemaking Experience was perfect for fledgling winemakers who lent a hand in an afternoon complete with grape stomping, lunch, and a tasting of some fine wines from Paso Robles.
One of the weekend’s most anticipated events was the Sunset Western Wine Awards, which are recognized as the highest honor for Western winemakers. Sunset’s panel of professional judges included wine writers, sommeliers, and winemakers who presented awards to many well-deserving wineries under a starlit sky, including a Lifetime Achievement Award that was given to Allen Shoup, a legend in the industry credited with founding Washington state’s wine industry. Guests enjoyed these award-winning wines alongside hors d’oeuvres from local chefs. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/ir0cko)
The final day featured chef Anthony Hagans from Harris Ranch on hand to give guests barbecuing and slow-cooking tips for today’s fast-paced lifestyle. Then, the always delightful Aarti Sequeira (from Food Network's Aarti Party) treated guests to a lesson in Indian cuisine, with a twist on American classics. With the afternoon came cocktail hour, when the festival brought in the best mixologists from LA and San Francisco who competed against each other as they shook and stirred artisanal cocktails.
The whole weekend had achieved what it set out to do, which was to provide a diverse and delicious look at all the Central Coast has to offer — a generous, fresh, and tasty bounty, indeed.