The San Luis Obispo region ranks as one of the state’s premiere wine growing regions, dating back to the 18th century and the time of the Spanish padres. But even if you don’t know a Cab from a Chardonnay, the wine country still beckons, with relaxed, cowboy-meets-winemaker towns, and vineyards that blanket coastal hills. SLO’s four AVAs each have something different to offer; in addition to the Pinot Noir this part of the state is particularly known for, you can savor Chardonnay (Arroyo Grande Valley), Syrah and Viognier (Edna Valley), Merlot and Zinfandel (Paso Robles), and Cabernet Sauvignon (York Mountain). In short: If you love wine, you’ve come to the right place.
South of town, Edna Valley is home to many top wineries, such as Tolosa, Balleyana, Chamisal—the very first SIP-certified winery—and another sustainability-minded operation, Wolff Vineyards, where the underground PVC irrigation system is saves at least 30% of water originally used. The average distance of Edna Valley vineyards to the ocean is just five miles, bringing mild days and cool evenings that help Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reach their maximum potential. A varied soil profile adds character and complexity too.
To extend your wine-country travels, continue about 30 miles northeast to the Paso Robles region. Here, more than 200 wineries ranging from family-owned boutiques to well-known labels such as J. Lohr and Estrella River welcome visitors to sip and swirl award-winning vintages. Paso Robles’ warmer inland climate lends itself to Bordeaux, Rhône and Zinfandel grapes, which vintners use in innovative blends, as well as traditional vintages. Right next to Paso Robles, though cooler and wetter, is the York Mountain AVA, and home to such vintners as Epoch Estate Wine and Lago Giuseppe Winery.
A fourth area—and the SLO region’s fourth AVA—Arroyo Grande Valley is about 13 miles southeast of the city. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the standouts here; fans of those varietals should make their way to Laetitia Vineyard and Winery, Talley Vineyards, and Peacock Cellars.