Sunset (meaning the time of day and the magazine), Hearst Castle, September 26: Not a bad day at the office! About 1,000 people gathered around the Neptune Pool and the grounds of California’s iconic castle for the kick-off party for our annual Sunset Savor the Central Coast four-day wine and food festival. The wines that night: medal winners from the 2013 Sunset International Wine Competition.
Before even getting to the main tasting event over the weekend, guests had a chance to take deep dives into the incredible food and wine culture on the coast—to the abalone farm in Morro Bay, for instance. Here, we’re learning how to plant vines at the very new Stollo Vineyards in Cambria. Each of us in the group owns one in the ground now—it has our name on it, and we get visiting rights.
Blending our own wine in Ancient Peak’s Santa Margarita Vineyard. Four winemakers brought wines they had made from that very vineyard—four different varieties—and guests learned what character each would bring to the mix, to create a balanced wine in the end. Everyone went home with a bottle of their custom blend.
On to the main tasting Saturday and Sunday on the gorgeous Santa Margarita Ranch between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. More than 100 wineries pouring, all the notable area restaurants serving, celebrity chef demonstrations (Michael Voltaggio), a Battle of the Bay cookoff, and music all day …
Not to mention wine-tasting seminars! This was my world for two days—Winemaker Central, the only air-conditioned spot at the festival, where we could pour Interesting Alternative Whites from the Central Coast, Discoveries from the Great Wine Roads in California, and all manner of other great wines. In the middle of their busiest harvest weekend of the year, the winemakers were willing to come out to share their passion about the bottles we were tasting.
The exhale moment at the end of the immensely satisfying (and equally draining) weekend—the view down Pismo Beach from my hotel balcony … and a glass of Beckmen dry rosé from the Sant Ynez Valley. I highly recommend it!