We have had the pleasure attending this long running educational weekend of excellence in the past. This year events of the Central Coast Wine Classic were centered on the small beach town called Avila Beach and for a very good reason.
This year’s event was not only a celebration of great wines and cuisine but also a rebirth of a town. We sipped some wine and met up with Central Coast Wine Classic Founder , all around renaissance man and Avila Beach resident Archie McLaren. We started the conversation on a cloudless day overlooking the quaint town and pier of Avila Beach.
Archie told us an amazing story starting with the destruction of a town by toxic waste to its rebirth over 10 years later into a lovely resort beach town.
Archie explained that in the late 1990s, Unocal began the cleanup of decades old oil seepage discovered years earlier from corroding pipes under the town, and which had caused a massive and toxic oil spill under the town.
Over 6,750 truckloads of contaminated material was sent to a Bakersfield Landfill,
and replaced with clean Guadalupe Dunes sand. Many of the town’s homes and businesses, including entire Front Street and Front Street Buildings, were razed as a
result of the half mile wide excavation. After years of negotiation, Unocal agreed to a thirty million dollar settlement, which has been used to rebuild the town. Today, new buildings, homes, businesses, modern walkways and sea motif walls and benches take their place. A Sea Life Center welcomes visitors to explore the local ocean inhabitants up close.
Archie added that his quaint town covers 1.3 square miles of land and is home to less than 1,000 people.
The beach itself is only about a half a mile long and is protected from northwesterly winds by Point San Luis. This creates a warmer climate than other beaches on the central coast, averaging temperatures in the 60s and 70s during summer months. Avila Beach faces south and is protected from the prevailing northwesterly winds by Point San Luis. It is therefore usuallywarmer than the other beaches on the Central Coast. Most of Avila Beach is undeveloped, except for a few blocks adjacent to the beach with homes, hotels, and small businesses, and a few recently built upscale housing developments inland, near a golf course. The area is also well known for its hot springs,which are used for resort spas.
What a better place to Experience the beauty and diversity of California’s Central Coast than at the Twenty-Seventh Annual Central Coast Wine Classic. Net proceeds from the Wine Classic, the Central Coast Wine Classic Foundation funds specific projects for 501(c)3 non-profit corporations in San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County whose missions are in the Healing, Performing or Studio Arts. Over the past seven years the Foundation has conferred grants totaling $1,615,943 to 76 such non-profits. For 2011, the Wine Classic Foundation Board chose the following beneficiaries: Avila Beach Civic Association, The Center for Nanomedicine in Santa Barbara, Coast Caregiver Resource Center in Santa Barbara, Friends of Hapitok in San Luis Obispo, Friends of the Atascadero Martin Polin Library, Friends of the Visual Arts & Design Academy in Santa Barbara, The Link Teens at Work Program in Atascadero & San Miguel, Loaves & Fishes in Paso Robles, North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center in Lompoc & Santa Maria, Northern Chumash Cultural Preservation Kinship in San Luis Obispo, Poetic Justice Project in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Master Chorale, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, The Sexual Assault Recovery & Protection Program of SLO County in San Luis Obispo, United Cerebral Palsy in San Luis Obispo and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care in
This year’s classic started Thursday with a Barrel tasting which gave early birds a chance to try yet to be released wines from many outstanding Californian wineries.
The most exclusive event was slated for the evening with the Dinner at Hearst
Castle in Sam Simeon. Here the true ambiance of a once glided aged was met with the fine wine and decadent dishes of Chef Roy Yamaguchi, D.K. Kodama and George Mavrothalassitis. With the careful coordination of Chef James Sly, the dinner was a succulent success. Encompassed by opulent surroundings, one could only imagine the night held a special magic with glorious food, fellowship of like minds, and of course, the wines. This event is the crème de la crème of the wine classic.
Also, on the night’s schedule was a wine classic Paulee Dinner. Diners bring
their own special bottle to share with their new and old friends. The dinner was held on the grounds of the Avila Golf Resort and proved to be a great time enjoying bottles of many different varietals, and enjoying a delightful meal while overlooking the lovely Pacific Ocean.
With the great synergy of the first day, Friday was going to another amazing day at Avila beach Golf Resort. If you had energy to spare after the incredible night at the Hearst Castle, Carissa Chappellet, was ready to take you biking along the scenic roadways and onto a delectable lunch. For those preferring to start the day with wine education, the Malbec wine symposium hosted by Educator and Author, Karen MacNeil, was the place to be. True to being an articulate, stimulating speaker, Ms. MacNeil, provided the participating audience an abundance of wine knowledge and thought provoking ideas about the wine varietal, Malbec.
If Malbec was not enough to engage your palate at 9:30 in the morning then one could proceeded to the Maisons, Margues and Domaines Fine Wine Symposium in the afternoon. You know that this is a great tasting, when you start a glass of
Roederer Cristal. Hosted by Xavier Barlier, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, we were in a tasting paradise with many amazing wines from around the globe. As the day was winding down, another wonderful event was on the sunset, with esteemed host, Karen MacNeil.
As the afternoon was lending itself to the descending sun, Ms. MacNeil again, enlightened us with the joys of Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Spakling Wine Discussion and Reception. As we sipped our delightful sparkling wine, we were give the opportunity to embrace the goodness of classic sparklers, that only Karen MacNeil could describe so beautifully.
As the evening rolled around, we were on the way to yet the final culinary destination. Since there were many wine dinners at restaurants and wineries throughout San Luis County, we were pleased to be heading off to the Edna Valley to the engaging Edna Valley Winery.
The Edna Valley Winery has the most stunning view of the vineyard located in their charming tasting room. With wide expansive windows surrounding the room, one feels like stepping into a verdant painting of lush green.
The dinner was again, a favorite among those who have attended in previous years. Each dish prepared with the “Presidents” in Mind. As we entered the candle lit dining room, we were asked to identify the presidential image on each table to find our seating for the evening.
The dishes served were replicas of various white house commemorations, each paired with appropriately selected Edna Valley Wines. Being days from the Nation’s
Birthday, we were put into a patriotic and pleasing spirit, with the perfectly
paired dishes. With our senses satiated, we were ready to head back for some rest, and onto another day of wine and wonders.
Saturday is the big day for focusing on the reason for the Central Coast Wine Classic, The Wine and Lifestyle Auction, which provides funding grants for special projects for the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County non profits. The Auction
highlights engaging the highest “bidders” for a plethora of outstanding donations, from exotic destinations, outstanding art, and fine wines.
All the proceeds go to well deserving non-profit organizations in the healing, studio and performing arts. Being the 27th year, of this fine event, the sentiment and support are as vibrant as ever. The event lasts the much of day with spirited bidding ushering in the greatest price for an amazing cause.
Of course, there is entertainment in between bidding, along with a superb luncheon for auction. Everyone went away with their appetites fulfilled, but their wallets a little lighter for such a great cause. The day was one of great nimation and good hearted well being; it really is the “heart” of the Central Coast Wine Classic.
Sunday continued to be another busy day for wine lovers, starting with a Chardonnay Terroir Symposium. With many extraordinary wine makers from all over California, the panel was set to answer all questions as to the effect of Terroir upon the body and flavor of Chardonnay.
The wines were presented to the audience by our host, Master Sommelier Larry Stone, with great insights and humor. As each wine was analyzed each participant had the opportunity to listen to the wine makers speak about this well know varietal and hear about their craft.
This indeed was another education in the art of wine making; transforming the humble Chardonnay grape into complex and delicious wine.
There was still more to enjoy, with a Reserve tasting of 50 California wines. This was a time to walk around and sample some of the best wines while noshing on some small bites made from the local fresh fare featuring some of the local restaurants and hotels. This again was another successful year, with events that encompassed something for every wine and food lover.
With the mind that the proceeds are helping to enrich the local community, everyone must mark their calendars for next years’ 28th Central Coast Wine Classic.
This event is like none other that we have attended and perhaps the longest continuously held wine event in California that not only focus on wine but the lifestyle that comes with it all for a good cause.