It’s no secret that there are a plethora of fabulous and diverse wineries sprinkled along California’s Central Coast and inland into Paso Robles. The Central Coast region geographically spans between Point Mugu and Monterey Bay, northwest of Los Angeles County and south of San Francisco. Its mild Mediterranean temps are everything you’d ever want in a climate- especially for the fine art of growing and fermenting grapes.
After spending four years in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and having the opportunity to take a “Branded Wine Marketing Class” along the way, I’d like to share my personal six favorite wineries on the Central Coast, and what makes them each particularly special.
Baileyana, Tangent & True Myth Tasting Room, Edna Valley
Baileyana, Tangent & True Myth Tasting Room may be my favorite tasting room in the San Luis Obispo region. Its expansive outdoor space and friendly service make me want to go there every time I’m visiting SLO.
The winery itself has a rich history- founders Jack and Catharine Niven came to San Luis Obispo in the early 1970s with the determined vision to plant a vineyard. They worked with top viticulture professors from UC Davis and Fresno State and in 1973 determined the Paragon Vineyard to be the perfect location to plant their seed.
Vineyard matriarch Catharine Niven was one of the first women to own a winery. She named it Baileyana after the place where she met her husband, Jack. Now the Niven family has owned and farmed the vineyard for more than 40 years as home to the oldest continually producing vines in the region. Read a more extensive history of the winery, here.
Baileyana offers cool-climate (and incredibly buttery) Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The property’s tasting room is inside the redesigned “Historic Independence Schoolhouse” which was built as a one-room schoolhouse in 1909 for the local farming community. The property is located at the base of Islay Hill which the last extinct volcano in well-known Central Coast mountain series known as the “Seven Sisters” stretching from Morro Bay to Edna Valley.
There’s a beautiful seating space behind the schoolhouse with a full sized bocce court if you’re one of those people who gets extra competitive when you’ve had a glass of wine.
The Baileyana, Tangent & True Myth tasting room offers a fantastic selection of 30 different wines across all five of the brands in their flight. Make sure that you have your camera ready!
The Baileyana, Tangent & True Myth tasting room is open daily from 10a.m. to 5p.m. and located at 5828 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo CA.
Tolosa, Edna Valley
Tolosa is named after the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, the mission dedicated to Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse in downtown San Luis Obispo. Founder and Vintner Robin Baggett graduated from Cal Poly in 1973. After a brief stint running cattle in the Edna Valley he realized his land was better suited for another kind of enterprise: winemaking. Robin and his partner Bob Schiebelhut began planting vineyards in 1988 and over time added several more historic family ranches in the valley. Together with Jim Efird (now retired) they founded Tolosa in 1998 and the the journey took off.
Its vineyard Edna Ranch is sustainably farmed and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified. In fact, in 2009 the property installed a SunPower high efficiency 539-killowatt (a 640 horsepower equivalent) ground mounted sun tracking system including 2,508 high-efficiency Sun Power solar panels which produce enough power to offset 90 to 95% of the winery’s electricity demand. There’s also electric vehicle charging stations in their front parking lot, so you can charge your Tesla while you sip on fine wine.
When we visited we experienced the “1772 Flight” which is an expression of four wines from the Edna Ranch. My favorite was the pinot. A single tasting is $25, and the fee is waived with a purchase of $50 or more.
There’s an expansive outdoor patio area to taste as well as an indoor tasting room (because I guess it does rain like, 30 days a year in SLO but there’s a great chance you’ll be able to sip in the sunshine).
Tolosa is open daily from 11a.m. to 6p.m. located at 4910 Edna Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards, Avila Beach
Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards in Avila Beach is FUN! There are peacocks roaming free around the farm-style property with apple wines, hard ciders and it’s located close to Avila Beach- so you can bring the bottle of wine you’ll inevitably buy and sit/enjoy it on the sand. Their zin is my absolute favorite.
This family owned and operated winery encourages guests to bring their picnic baskets, dogs, and families to enjoy the community atmosphere in its creekside wine tasting space. There’s live music the 1st Sunday of every month, and again- PEACOCKS roam free. It’s quite exciting.
The labels on their wine are done by local artist and family member Colleen Gnos– best known for her iconic gold-scaled mermaids painted on surfboards, or her idyllic surfer scenes. Since 1999, Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards has commissioned Colleen to design over 100 wine labels for them. I saved the bottle, and it’s displayed on my bookshelf.
Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards is open daily from 11a.m to 5:30p.m. located at 1947 See Canyon Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405.
Tooth & Nail Winery, Paso Robles
Tooth & Nail Winery’s tasting room in Paso Robles is INSIDE A CASTLE. You’re the PRINCESS, and you’re wine tasting in a freaking CASTLE. With a REAL MOAT, and everything. It also doesn’t hurt that the wine served by Rabble Wine Company is pretty great, too.
Rabble Wine Company’s mission is to “take wine drinkers past the status quo.” The four brands within the Rabble family include: Rabble, Tooth & Nail, Amor Fati and Stasis. Rabble Wine Company founder Rob Murray is a winegrower whose vineyard-first mindset drives the ambition to create a brand which stands out. Winemaker Jeremy Leffert views himself “as more as a shepherd, than a maker” going out of his way to ensure the wine is created with the “native energy” of “a discerning winemaker working in concert with nature’s intent.”
Now that you’ve been educated on where wine at Tooth & Nail comes from it’s time to thoroughly enjoy it- in the castle (no, that will never get old!). The castle is huge. Walk across the moat and up the steps to the enormous tasting room. There’s a bar as well as multiple levels of indoor and outdoor seating which overlook the breathtaking views of vineyards and mountains as far as the eye can see (as you can tell, I highly recommend going at sunset).
We ordered the The Defiant Flight Tasting Experience for $20. I honestly can’t pick a favorite.
Tooth & Nail is open daily from 10a.m. to 6p.m., open late on Wednesdays until 7p.m. and Fridays until 8p.m. located at 3090 Anderson Road Highway 46 West & Anderson Road Paso Robles, California 93446
Harmony Cellars, Harmony
For a town with a population of 18 (yes, you read that correctly and I fact checked it) Harmony, CA knows how to make wine.
Harmony Cellars is a small family-owned winery founded in 1989 by Chuck and Kim Mulligan, who caught the winemaking bug on a vacation to Santa Ynez and quickly turned their passion into a profession. Over time, the winery has grown from a 2,000 case micro-winery to a 7,500 case boutique production facility.
Harmony wines are made with fruit selected from vineyards along the Central Coast from Monterey to Santa Margarita. Chuck meticulously tends to all the winemaking details from harvest to bottling while Kim handles running the business- a true dynamic duo.
The tasting room and back patio area exhibit a quiet, small town atmosphere feel which complement its rural setting 5 miles south of Cambria, where Hearst Castle is located (unfortunately unlike Tooth & Nail, the famous Hearst Castle doesn’t hold wine tastings).
PRO TIP FOR ALL YOU CAL POLY KIDS: This winery offers free tastings to students with a Poly ID- and make sure you buy something to take home, after (which won’t be hard, because all of their wines are amazing).
When I was at Poly the winery would occasionally hold nighttime stargazing and wine tasting events which was a phenomenal way to get a peek at the unparalleled view of the night sky from remote land of Harmony.
Harmony Cellars is open daily from 10a.m. to 5p.m. and located at 3255 Harmony Valley Roady, Harmony, CA 93435
Brecon Estate, Paso Robles
Brecon Estate is a Boutique Estate winery located in the beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles. Brecon’s wines are each small batch ferments. Every individual wine has an unique story to tell, and is sold exclusively through the tasting room.
Winemaker (and cave explorer) Damian Grindley has been in the winemaking industry for over 20 years. His partner Amanda Grindley (also a caver and world traveler) is passionate about conservation and the outdoors, and was key in the design and remodel of Brecon Estate.
My ladies and I enjoyed a tasting flight out on the (dog friendly) back patio. My favorite was the Caberet/Malbec blend because I’m a fan of sweeter, more robust wines.
Brecon is open daily from 11a.m. to 5p.m. 7450 Vineyard Drive Paso Robles, CA 93446
Now, remember that this is just a TASTE of the hundreds of wineries on the Central coast. Maybe someday (hopefully?) I’ll have the opportunity to visit all of them- but for now, know that these six have been chosen based off of the short time I was able to enjoy the area’s wineries- and by no means are an all-encompassing representation to the region.
Have better suggestions? Let me know! I’d love to visit them with you 😉
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