When many people think about California, they often think of San Diego, LA and of course the wines of Napa and Sonoma. What they don’t know is that California is the “salad bowl “of the United States, additionally, world class wines are made from all over the state. These facts are often not mentioned or at the very least understated in their importance.
SUNSET Magazine has long since been a shining star in the Western United states showing the best the west has to offer. SUNSET Magazine held its 2 Annual SAVOR the Central Coast Event at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch located almost half way between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.
But, by no means is this very special event held just at the Ranch but shows off the bounty of the Central Coast from Paso Robles to Pismo Beach.
Guests that attend this 4 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 as they sipped, and dined their way across the fertile valleys of these amazing areas on the Central Coast.
SAVOR wastes no time in getting things started right; the first event being a Sunset VIP Reception at Hearst Castle in San Simenon. Strolling in the beautiful gardens with bubbles in hand while gazing at the Neptune Pool at Sunset is a great way to start any event. In this venue, SAVOR does it first class and the weekend was just getting started with a full day of events slated the following day.
SAVOR Day 2 was all about featuring Off-Site Events. There was something for almost any interest to enjoy. Guests could choose to head to the coastal village of Cayucos and the Ocean Rose Abalone Farm that harvests sustainably raised abalone and then have a gourmet lunch with SUNSET Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony. If Oysters are your thing, Guests could head to nearby Morro Bay and The Morro Bay Oyster Company that continues a rich tradition of Oyster farming.
After a boat ride on the magnificent Morro bay, attendees could spend the afternoon by enjoying a lunch of oysters paired with San Luis County Wines along with SUNSET Associate Editor Christine Ciarmello. For guests liked to keep both feet on dry land, SAVOR had a wonderful event at the Happy Acres Goat Farm which is a working dairy run by 4 women and their families.
For anyone hoping for hands on experience, there was even an opportunity to milk goats and make goat cheese. Many other events Included were the Behind-the-Scenes Hearst Castle Tour and for the more outdoor adventurous, one could Kayak/Paddleboard Tour on the Morro Bay Estuary, or take a hike on the beautiful Coastline Walk with a Gourmet Lunch in in Montaña de Oro State Park after the journeys end.
Ever had lunch at a lighthouse? If not, then guests could choose to Hike (or trolley up) for a Tour, and Lunch at Point San Luis Lighthouse. Of course there was an event for the fledging winemakers in attendance.
SAVOR’s First Crush Berry to Bottle Winemaking Experience allowed guests a hand and feet on total wine making afternoon complete with grape stomping, lunch and some fine bottled wines from Paso Robles. A Bird’s Eye view is usually the best way to “see it all “from above and for a limited amount of guests a Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Paso Robles Wine Region was a great way to start the day and see harvest from above the vineyard. After a lovely afternoon enjoying what the many attributes of the Land and the Sea, there was still one more spectacular event ahead for the evening: The SUNSET Magazine Western Wine Awards
Many guests joined Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider and Sunset Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony for one of the weekend’s most anticipated events. The Sunset Western Wine Awards are recognized as the highest honor for Western winemakers and focus solely on wines produced in the West.
Sunset’s panel of professional judges included Western wine writers, sommeliers, and winemakers with wines that have been nominated for a Sunset Western Wine Award. At this gala reception and awards ceremony, guests enjoyed the award-winning wines and met the award-winning winemakers as they sipped “The Best in The West “.
The Gala event was hosted by the City of Pismo Beach on the historic Pismo Beach pier and also featured fresh local fare hors d’oeuvres prepared by many of the best Chefs in the area. Many awards and accolades were given out to the well deserving wineries, sommeliers, and winemakers through the evening under a starlit sky.
The highlight of the evening was when the Life Time Achievement award presented to Allen Shoup, a true legend in the Industry, credited for founding Washington State’s Wine Industry and shaping the nature of this outstanding wine region. What a better day could one desire than attending the morning and afternoon off site events and closing the day on the Pismo Pier at a Red Carpet Gala honoring many of the finest men and women in the Industry. Heading back along the Pacific Coast Highway with moonbeams bouncing off a flat sea we already started to smile with anticipation on what the next two days would bring.
Saturday at SAVOR meant it was the first Day of “The Main Event” at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch. The Main event provides something for everybody as guests had the opportunity to ride a train around the picturesque ranch, listen to great local bands in a beer garden, drive a Lexus like you never had before around a specially designed track, and then of course try all the fantastic food, wine and live demonstrations. If you were an early riser, the event was highlighted with the opportunity to have breakfast with Editor-in Chief Katie Tamony.
After breakfast renowed Chef and Author Cindy Pawlcyn gave guests an education on Sustainable Seafood that is so important to everyone in these days and times. Iron Chef, Author Cat Cora herself took the Chef Central Stage by storm as only she can with, Cat Cora’s Classics with a twist. She later signed copies of her newest Cookbook of the same name for a standing room only crowd.
For guests that wanted to learn about what’s happening in the world of Wine, Sara Schneider Sunset’s Wine Editor gave guests a unique look at the “crazy blends” from Paso Robles and what to expect in the future.
Even though SAVOR is primarily focused on the Central Coast, Washington State Wines were on hand as the first ever “featured region “to the event.
The legendary Allen Shoup , this year’s Life Time Achievement award winner, conducted a very in-depth look at Washington State wines from their beginning and looking ahead to the future of the region to a full house.
Over in the Farmers Market , attendees had the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics such as 3 Ways with Fresh Figs , The Perfect Way to Chop, Dice, and Peel the Most Challenging Products ,How to Grow Your Own Gourmet Greens and of course The Perfect Tomato: Plant it, Grow it … Eat it! Just to name a few. The Sun was setting lower behind the mountains and that meant the Main Event’s first day was coming to an end, but that did not mean the day was over by any means for the guests. Two world class events awaited them in two Central Coast towns that would be a highlight of anyone’s culinary experience for the weekend.
San Luis Opispo is home to Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa which was established in 1772. One of the two featured evening events was a Winemaker reception and Dinner at the Mission located in the center of town. Long tables adorned with white linens allowed guests to get to know each other and the winemakers as they sipped many of the region’s best wines and they dined Al fresco on dishes provided by many of San Luis Opispo’s finest Chefs with the Mission as the backdrop. ‘
In nearby Paso Robles guests attended “Paso Glow “. Paso’s City Park was illuminated and transformed into an Intimate Gala Dinner venue complete with live music and featured the sumptuous fare of gifted local Chef Jeffery Scott .
With the backdrop of big band music playing, along with the glow of large lit structures, guests were treated to an illuminating food and wine experience .
The final day of the Main Event was upon us but that in no means meant SAVOR was slowing down. Once again, guests were given the opportunity to start their day having breakfast with Sunset Editor-In-Chief Katie Tamony as they enjoyed the fresh, cool morning air at the Ranch.
Things started heating up when Chef Anthony Hagans from Harris Ranch gave guests tips on BBQ Premium Natural Beef as well as slow cooking and preparing Beef for today’s fast paced lifestyle. For those who wanted to party with food there was a fantastic option to get their fix and have some fun in the Kitchen with the Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira. The always delightful” Arti Paarti “was in the house and treated guests by sharing her knowledge of Indian Cuisine with a twist on American classic dishes. It was 4:00pm at the Ranch and after all of those great wines and food many thought it was time for a cocktail and SAVOR did not disappoint.
The best of the best Mixologists from LA and San Franciso competed against each other as they shook and stirred artisan cocktails that are all the rage amongst the finest dining venues and were also a delight to the attending guests. In the Farmers market experts were showing off local cheeses , teaching how we can all grow our own gourmet greens and giving an interesting look at growing Crops in Pots. Blind Tasting Pinot Noirs is always fun and Wine Editor Sara Schneider guided guests through a blind tasting of the regions finest Pinot Noirs in her Central Coast Pinot Noir shoot out . All the events provided a diverse, and delicious look at what the best of the Central Coast has to offer.
SAVOR the Central Coast takes guests on a journey of Food , Wine , Mixology, Agriculture, history and travel, all over the central coast. Many guests took advantage of the four day Main Event to have “the journey” come to them. Others choose to take the journey literally.
That is exactly what these journalists did. We started in Paso Robles which is actually “El Paso de Robles” which is Spanish for “The Pass of Oaks”. We learned about the “Templeton Gap “which is a notch in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range that allows the marine air inland and across to the vineyards of Paso Robles . Temperate swings of 50 degrees within a 24 hour period are not uncommon.
We also learned about the abundance of Olive Orchards and world class Olive Oil made right in Paso Robles. Of course many wines from Paso Robles were featured at the Main Event each day. Ecluse Wines , Kenneth Volk Vineyards , Justin Vineyards, Ortman Family Wines and Niner Wine Estates were a few of the stand outs for us.
Our SAVOR exploration continued west to the town of San Luis Obispo. A Thursday night Farmers Market that closes the main street downtown for several blocks, attracts some of the finest products in the central coast and makes your palate and nose dance with excitement. San Luis Opispo is the third largest wine region in California, which is news to many who think that this is just the sleepy small college town of Cal Poly. There are over 200 wineries and 100 tasting rooms with award winning wines just minutes from downtown. We even took a foodie walking tour of the downtown area.
Beginning our journey into one of California’s finest wine and food regions, we also wanted to see what makes the town San Luis Obispo the “Happiest Town in America”, according to Oprah Winfrey, and many others who happen to visit this quaint college town.
We were indeed very elated after taking the San Luis Obispo Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour which demonstrated why SLO is such a great place to live, work and play. How does one really get to know the heartbeat of a community? Look at the food venues and the history that surrounds the community. The tours offer “the best examples of Central California cuisine , culture, architecture and little known stories of the city’s history, “ according to their website: CentralCoastFoodTours.com The tours are approximately 2-3 hours of moderate walking and is open to most people in good health.
By taking time to walk around the town of SLO, escorted by our effervescent and long time resident, Jules, we had the privilege of learning the history and the nature of the town and the people that create the community. Meeting our guide on the steps of the historic Garden Inn, we were given a brief history of the hotel and its colorful owner. We then moved on to one of the local’s favorite bars in the area, Black Sheep Bar and Grill whose authentic replica of a European bar, and fantastic mac-n-cheese along with other local fare, keeps this venue as one of the local’s favorite watering holes.
The bar and outdoor patio offer a casual dining experience where locals love to gather. The food served at the restaurant captures the fresh local ingredients. We had their signature sumptuous mac-n-cheese dish, which incorporated local cheeses and herbs. This was served outside in a delightful garden patio, where Jules told us the history of the restaurant and some local lore.
After leaving our pleasant surroundings, we headed on to one of the best local sources for all things olive oil. We Olive is a local store that offers some of the best olive oils from the county and around the world. We were able to do an olive oil tasting which is similar to a wine tasting on some levels. Each small cup of oil we tasted was to be sniffed, swirled and savored for its aromatic and unique qualities. Whether it’s flavored oil you are looking or an extra virgin olive oil, We Olive is the place to visit in SLO. There are also other We Olive outlets throughout the county for your shopping pleasure.
Onto our next stop; Buona Tavola, a northern Italian cuisine restaurant. Having eaten at this local restaurant in times past we knew whatever the chef had ready for us was going to be delightful and we were not disappointed. Chef-owner, Antonia Varia and his staff deliver marvelous northern Italian culinary delights. This time we were treated to a plate of Chef’s new venture, homemade salami. This handcrafted Italian salami is created with only the finest natural ingredients. The name of the new venture is Allesina Handcrafted Italian salami and is named after Chef’s deceased Mother as a tribute to her and the tradition of making salami each winter for the entire family. This product is indeed made with love and was served with several different cheeses. The salami was chewy and mother-watering savory. We enjoyed each bite.
After saying good bye we then headed over to Vieni Vai Trattoria, another Italian restaurant that offers the only outdoor pizza oven in SLO, but we were not having pizza this time but a traditional Tiramisu. The delightfully creamy and light Tiramisu was presented to us by owner Giuesppe Silverstri whose authentic Italian cuisine is created with a great amount of love and care from his homeland. Along with his wife Debra, they have created a true taste of old world Italy right along the creek in SLO. As we concluded our foodie tour over the last delectable bite of Tiramisu, the sights sounds and flavors of SLO were imprinted on our memories with the thoughts of a joyous and delicious day in the “Happiest Town in America.” For more information about the San Luis Obispo Food and Cultural Walking Tour, visit their website: CentralCoastFoodTours.com
We then moved onto nearby Edna valley which was predominately featured each day at the Main Event at the Santa Margarita Ranch and rightfully so. They have incredible wines in this understated region. Ancient Peaks Winery, Chamisal Vineyards, Claiborne and Churchill Winery, Kynsi Winery and Salisbury Vineyards really caught our attention. Still heading west, we embarked upon the bountiful Pacific Ocean.
Arriving to the coast and experiencing the sea food bounty of Morro Bay, the quaint city of Pismo Beach, we realized what a wonderful experience to be had in just a few short days. SUNSET Magazine and its SAVOR the Central Coast is really about a journey of experience, condensed into a fantastic four day timeframe.
Sunset Magazine provides an enjoyable experience incorporating each area of the central coast not only for what they uniquely provide but what they supply together in the fertile ground of California. SAVOR the Central Coast is one of SUNSET Magazines premier events and nobody has ever done it better. We look forward to seeing what surprises the 3rd annual SAVOR the Central Coast will have to offer.