For a town with ideal soil and climate for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo does not have many wine bars downtown. It’s almost like they don’t think of themselves as a genuine wine village. Now, the Luis Wine Bar on Higera has an abundant and tasteful selection of local wines as well as flights that showcase the flavors of Edna Valley. The management also do a great job of incorporating wines from their neighbor to the north, Paso Robles, and south, Santa Barbara.
If you think wine bars don’t have good food offerings, remember that they aim to pair their products best so you’re going to get really high quality cheese and olive options yet no full kitchen for a burger and fries. But Luis gathers high quality cheese, nuts, bread, and cured meats from local providers. So, they serve a mouthwatering assortment of dishes that pair well with wine flights of many varieties.
With free wifi and floor to ceiling accordion style windows that bring the outdoors in, Luis is quite possibly the best place to spend a warm afternoon or happy hour while still responding to a few last minute emails.
This loaded mac and cheese sounded yummy on the menu and tasted pretty good. But can you say “Hamburger Helper”?
Before you try this at home, make sure you have a salty smoky cheese. And, as much as we all love those green jalapeno ringlets, the more vibrant the color, the more vibrant the dish. If you can use a red pepper, always go red. Even my 5 year old niece knows that!
Had to head down to Santa Barbara and was trying to make the drive back north in the same day but that would have been 13 hours on the road so I decided to stay the night in San Luis Obispo (Central Coast). I usually love the steaks at Madonna Inn’s restaurant but the rooms are too loud. So, I was delighted to find the Granada Hotel & Bistro quoted me about the same price for a recently remodeled lavishly decorated room right in downtown SLO.
While the accommodations were a score and I saved a bit of cash, I spent about a hundred bucks on myself in their bistro downstairs because the wine and food was so delicious. Their Cumin and Coriander Rubbed Coulotte Steak had a celery root puree, chili roasted cauliflower and chimichurri nora pepper puree that was not shy on the spice. While the combination of flavors was outstanding, I was wishing I’d ordered a Riesling or jammy zin to handle the spice in this dish. I know I should have known by the description that it was spicy. But so many chefs are simply shy on the spices to appeal to a wide audience. Kudos to the chef at Granada for embracing authentic spice and local flavors!
The Folkway Bien Nacido Vineyard from Santa Maria on the menu was a soft loving Merlot. I’m still thinking about its deliciously elegant portfolio of flavors with a real juicy dark cherry that is the hallmark of a good Merlot. But pair this with lighter fare than I did.
Finally, don’t get suckered into paying an extra $5 hotel fee for them to staff their front desk. We all have to suck up fees that it takes to run our businesses!
I know I’ve mentioned this before but had to post a photo for those who haven’t been yet or just don’t believe me. My travels take me all over this state but the Madonna Inn is always a great stopping point for a delicious steak dinner. The location could not be easier right off the 101 and next to a gas station. And the prime rib consistently hits that spot with deep rich jus and creamy sauce with just enough kick to get your blood going and clear your sinuses.
While you’re there, try a Merlot from a producer named Vintage Cowboy out of Santa Margarita. It has the haunting cherry smoky flavor you crave if you have a sense of adventure. But the body and structure will make you think you need to discover Santa Margarita. If you’re tired of dealing with friends who want to know what’s so great about the Central Coast, this will make them say “oh, ya, that memorable Merlot.”
Sorry, but had to post a warning. The steak is so good at Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House that you may get spoiled. After you’ve had their prime rib, you may start ordering prime rib elsewhere. But you may want to ask for your money back.
Yep, it’s an alley spattered with chewed gum, the kind of art you could only find in a college town. Some have even spelled out a favorite credo using a unique color of choice or gum hue.
This is just the kind of fabulousness you see in SLO.
Could be my female intuition but I’m guessing I’m walking into a guy bar with burgers, pizza, and beer.
Well, the uns have it. San Luis Obispo’s wine country brochure says it best: “un-crowded, unhurried, and un-pretentious…” Remember, you can get great wine anywhere in this state. If you’re tired of the overcrowded over-the-top tasting destinations where the attitudes outnumber the smiles, venture off the beaten path and find an oasis where you feel like you belong. There really is something for everyone.
The first wine in Saucelito Canyon’s line up makes a big impact. You see it is a chilled white wine so you’re thinking it will be light, crisp, and refreshing. While it does get its citrus flavors and crisp acidity from Sauvignon Blanc, you initially taste the rounder flavors from Semillon with minerality, herbs, and even a hint of pepper. Your mind races at all the foods you could try with this complex combo. The blend of the two makes it a delightful poolside blonde or picnic pairing. The next white stirs your palate even more with creamy richness and a luscious playful charm you know could stand up to rich foods. The Cote de Blanc is a great choice for velvety pasta, creamy butternut squash soup, or hearty chicken or turkey.
But they are really known for their zin, a welcome beacon in a land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their first is a cool blend that gets its red fruit of strawberries from Grenache, blue fruit from Petite Sirah, and body and structure from Zinfandel. Don’t know who brings the cocoa and licorice on the finish but maybe that’s part of the combo. The three play in your mouth at different corners and form a curvaceous body. Curvy bottle for a curvy blend.
Their next zin came from 130 year old vines that were dry farmed and hand picked. Words really can’t describe what this does to a wine so you’ll have to go taste for yourself. But old vines produce grapes that are more complex and the coastal influence makes Zinfandels more robust than jammy. This wine is a great representation of both.
I was told they’ll be releasing a Tempranillo in a week.
Even if you’ve visited the Sextant tasting room in Paso Robles, you should still visit the one in San Luis Obispo when in in the area. Not only because they have delicious wines, but also because they pour different wines at each tasting room.
The tasting room in SLO has quite a line up starting with a light crisp refreshing Grenache Blanc. Theirs has wonderful tropical fruit with lemon and green apple and thick minerality from the limestone soils. Then, their Grenache rose is a great balance of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry with a light refreshing body of thick almond milk. Next, they hit you with a big bold California style Pinot Noir bursting of red fruit from strawberry and raspberries and then blue fruit from blueberries with a hint of earth. It has so many layers you need to sip a while before you uncover its tangy fig and olive tapenade flavors. Their Syrah is just as big with blueberry raspberry and licorice. But the fave is the Wheelhouse Zinfandel which gets its plum and blackberry from zin I’m sure yet a little Tempranillo gives it other layers like cherry, smoke, leather, and sage. I hear the tasting room in Paso Robles pours even more delightful wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.