Cambria vacation inspires central coast dreaming

Escape to Cambria by the Sea with three-day itinerary

Vacations affect your happiness and planning one can produce enough positive vibes to justify a three-day getaway. And, according to a 2010 New York Times article, the effects of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for up to eight weeks.

Cambria by the Sea is about 140 miles west of Fresno, CA, or 233 miles south of San Fransisco.

While I have led tours to New York City, Europe, and the central coast many times, I still get positive endorphins as I did drafting those trips more than 20 years ago. The key? Planning and dreaming about vacations before departure.

With today’s busyness and hectic pace, many long for sounds of seagulls, rhythm of the waves, sweet smells of pine forests, beach or bluff walks, and air as clean as mother nature intended.

So when a three-day window arose for Geena and I to enjoy Cambria, California, a pre-planned agenda helped ensure a relaxed, no hassle weekend. And, to top it off, planning and anticipating the vacation for a few weeks beforehand may be even more important to a feeling of relaxation than just the days away from home.

Cambria is a sleepy “just off the beach” town a few miles north of Morro BayCayucos and six miles south of San Simeon and Hearst Castle fame on California’s central coast.

Cambria’s pristine beaches, tide pools, wine tasting and forest, bluff and other docent-led Fiscalini Ranch walks are the perfect slow-pace agenda we wanted and longed for. We knew a leisurely drive could easily take a visitor to the Piers Blancas Light Station, Paso Robles wine tours, the Edna Valley and SLO County wineries or the college town of San Luis Obispo. But Cambria’s beauty, beaches, paths and slow pace was calling.

Moonstone Beach boardwalk at the north end of Cambria is a favorite spot for many visitors.

We wanted to escape to Cambria and take in its natural wonders.

And, central California visitors or Central Valley residents will tell you, there is PLENTY TO DO during a three-day mini vacation in Cambria, thank you.

Tip No. 1: Get to Paso early for a winery pit stop

While our Cambria getaway did not start until 9 a.m. Friday, we took care of a few last minute details, grabbing a coffee and pastry at a local java shop on the drive out of town. If you love the aroma of tea, coffee or a warm beverage on a cold morning, this adds to the anticipation and promise of a great start. In fact, the two plus-hour drive from Fresno to Paso Robles was made all the better with some hot black gold and a light, flaky and buttery delicacy.

Giornata Wines are within the Tin City development of Paso Robles.

Paso Robles wine tasting teaser:

We left early enough to arrive in Paso Robles and had time to stop in at one of the area’s wineries: Giornata Wines just off the CA 101 and Highway 46 interchange. They are a part of the new Tin City development. We called ahead and made sure winemaker Brian and/or wife, Stephanie, Terrizzi had the winery open. We were in luck and spent an hour tasting and purchasing a bottle of our favorite Sangiovese. We love their award-wining California-style Italian juice.

However, while there are hundreds of winery choices in the Paso area, and acknowledging Tin City is a destination itself, that was not our purpose for this trip.

Cambria: Day 1

One of the best feelings about arriving in Cambria is the sight of its wooded hills and tall Monterey pines. Motorists can enter the town via the first stoplight at Ardath Drive/Main Street as they travel the California Highway 1 (Cabrillo Highway) heading north.Turn right on Main Street to travel the whole town of Cambria, taking in the charm of its 19th century cottages, motels, turn of the century shops and quaint character in Cambria East.

Cambria history interlude

The villages of Cambria took their shape in the 1860s, and as lumber, ranching and mining interests increased in the region, the village became more prosperous, according to the Cambria Historical Society. And late in the sixties, it adopted the more dignified name of Cambria.

But it was not until Swiss dairymen set the pace for a major industry during 1880s that prosperity came to the region. By the turn of the century, Cambria was shipping over a ton of butter per day to San Francisco via the wharf at San Simeon. Cheese production is said to have averaged over a half-ton daily.

I appreciate Cambria’s past and enjoy the stories of settlers and their influence. Yet, our planned full walking tour of the historic East Village will have to wait for a future visit.

Cambria is divided in to two villages: Cambria East and Cambria West.

However, while we noticed spots on the walking tour map we wanted to visit, our first stop on this trip was the weekly Friday Cambria farmer’s market, just west of Main and Cambria, across the street from the Cambria Public Library at 1000 Main. This is about the center of town and a great way to meet the locals, area artisans and farmers. We spent over an hour wandering, chatting and generally slowing our pace. Even though we were there in mid January, a surprisingly wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, gourmet cheese, crackers and wine, local shellfish, coffee and fresh squeezed juices were available.

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Cambria businesses, shops and restaurants have quaint and charming facades, drawing the visitor to indoor and outdoor spaces.

Cambria East Village is where visitors will find shops, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries as well as Victorian houses dating back to the 1870s and its nature reserves. This is a place to take a deep breath and maybe enjoy the Historical Cambria Walking Tour.  We would return to its antique and specialty shops on Saturday.

Arrive in Cambria on Fridays by 2:30 p.m. for their farmer’s market. Buy local fresh produce, dairy, seafood, flowers, nuts, wine and more.

The Cambria farmer’s market is on Main across the street from the public library.

Cambria West Village has vibrant artist community including designers, artists, craftspeople and you will find special treasures you will not see anywhere else. There are no chain stores or restaurants. They along with the Farmer’s Market, as well as day spas and wellness centers are all locally owned and operated. You will be charmed by the eclectic array of shops from antiques to apparel plus unique gifts and specialty shops.

The key to a successful Cambria trip is to keep the itinerary simple. Walk the town, browse the shops with a coffee, tea or bag of confectionary in hand. We slowly made our way through the art galleries, local artisan, specialty, antique and craft shops.

Cutruzzola Vineyards tasting room is at the edge of West Village near Windsor and Main Street in Cambria. They are known for their Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

After an hour getting reacquainted with village life, we drove the short distance back to Cutruzzola’s Tasting Room and tasting room at the edge of West Village near Windsor and Main Street, just off Highway 1. While the tasting room is in Cambria, their estate vineyard is just outside of town, only a few miles from the waters’ edge.

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We met Reyna Jonas at the tasting room who shared the Cutruzzola story and wines with us. I was especially impressed with Cutruzzola’s Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

We spent over an hour listening to Reyna talk about the passion of local winemaker Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Cellars who has used time spent in the Napa Valley, the Australian outback, and the South African Cape to helped shape Cutruzzola’s wines. Owners Francis Cutruzzola and his partner Lisa Miller, longtime wine connoisseurs, moved from Sonoma County to the Paso Robles wine region, falling in love with the landscape, the people, and most importantly, the wine.

They have two acres of Riesling and five acres of Pinot Noir in small blocks, utilizing multiple clones to develop depth and complexity in the wines. These are fabulous sipping and food wines. I am very impressed with Cutruzzola Vineyards and highly recommend these award-wining wines that score 90+ and above.

Cutruzzola estate Riven Rock Vineyard vineyard is located in a coastal valley just outside the town center, lies 6.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and just east of the town of Cambria. Seven acres of vines grace south-facing slopes in a cool climate frequented by ocean breezes and morning fog. Lean, rocky, marine-origin soils and steep hillsides produce very small yields of extremely concentrated fruit, while the maritime influence keeps the acids fresh and vibrant.

Tip No. 2: Slow your pace, set awhile with a coffee, tea or juice and people watch

We decided to meet up at Linn’s Restaurant in East Village for a coffee and pastry. And while we sat at a little table near the baked goods counter, it was so good to just sit and people watch. No agenda, no bustle. Just people watching, sipping and relaxing.


With art hanging close by at The Vault and other galleries, soft music playing, and two more days ahead of us, we spoke of a walk along Moonstone Beach, a leisurely hike on Fisalini Ranch, and wine tasting. It’s good to anticipate, even when its as close as tomorrow.

With daydreaming done and a visit to a couple of antique dealers discovering toys, dishes and furniture from our youths, we headed to Moonstone Beach and a walk along its famed boardwalk.

Tip No. 3: Walk Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is where a Cambria visit should begin and end. During its length, visitors will be guided along its 2.85-mile wooden boardwalk on an easy slope and with many spots to sit on benches, sink your feet into the sand or water or watch from the bluffs the surf, sea and ocean life. With viewing platforms and only 40 feet of elevation change, this is a must for anyone.

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Geena and I walked hand in hand, listening to the seals, egrets and rhythm of the waves. We  explored a few of the tide pools as well, finding sea anemones, spiny purple sea urchins, snails and crabs.

And with plenty of restaurants, motels and picnic areas, we ended up getting a drink at a couple of spots along the Moonstone Drive over the weekend. Try the Sea Chest Restaurant for great oysters and a glass of Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc. We also visited Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for a bowl of clam chowder and a citrusy zest of a Riesling. The lemon and lime cuts the silky, rich broth and starch in the potatoes. Cheers to good eating and relaxing with spectacular ocean views.

To get to the trailhead: From San Luis Obispo, drive 34.2 miles north up Highway One to Cambria. Continue through three lights and turn left at the traffic light onto Windsor Boulevard. Drive a hundred feet and make an immediate right onto Moonstone Beach Drive. Go 0.1 miles and turn left into the trailhead free parking area just past El Colibri Hotel. If you are coming from the north, Windsor Boulevard is 7.2 miles south of Hearst Castle Road.

Checking in to Cambria’s Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive

With dinner still two hours hence, we checked in to our hotel: The Fireside Inn right on Moonstone Beach Drive, overlooking the ocean and an entrance to the boardwalk.

With the USA recently posting Moonstone Beach as one of California’s Top 10 best, we just had to stay within walking distance. Nestled just off Highway 1, the Fireside Inn is perfect spot to get away from it all. Just footsteps away from the beach, our Superior King Oceanfront room had a fireplace, spa tub, and patio overlooking the ocean.

We loved lounging in the lush bathrobes, sipping in-room gourmet coffee. No problem getting a great night’s sleep on a Sleeper Mattress and luxurious bedding. In fact, a late night dig in the hot spa poolside was also a bonus!

Dinner No. 1: Madelines on Main Street

Highly recommended, we loved our evening at Madeline’s Restaurant in Cambria. Not only did our hotel recommend it but others in town as well. A wine shop and wine club by day (a good one at that), and fine dining each night, we were greeted at the Madeline’s door by owner and Chef David and seated. Loved the linen tables, finely appointed with flowers.

I took a few moments to browse the wine tasting shop as would return on my own. Many of the wines and dinner menu items are based upon locally sourced and seasonably available products. Chef Dave is proud to say “the best organic food and local wine is what’s grown closest to you – and it tastes better!” He’s been open for 13 years and by the way the restaurant was bustling and full, I’d say he will be on Main Street for some time to come.

Light music played in the back ground as we enjoyed our five course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($110 per couple). We added the wine flight ($40 per couple) and let our host guide us through local foods and wine tasting. We enjoyed our evening and recommend Madeline’s Restaurant and appreciate owner David Stoothoff’s hospitality.

First course: Caucus Red Abalone (Panko crusted, topped with lemon butter capers over arugula salad. This was paired with a 2015 Andrew Adam Pinot Gris from Edna Valley. Perfect. Second course: Wild forged Chanterelle mushroom soup (unspeakable deliciousness) with a Baker and Brain 2015 Grüner Veltliner from Edna Valley.

Third course: Pan-seared link cod topped with compound butter, blood orange and saffron sauce with creamy risotto and wilted greens. The 2014 Alban Central Coast Viognier from Paso Robles was outstanding.

Fourth course: Venison tenderloin with red wine jus and shallots with mashed butternut squash and seasonal vegetables. Chef David paired this with a 2014 Line Shack Cabernet from Paso Robles. The tenderloin was fantastic but when we didn’t like the pairing, he poured a glass of the 2014 Kamal Cabernet Sauvignon El Pomar District. Oh my, my food pairing became an immediate winner. Fifth course: We had a choice of homemade desserts and our choice of aperitif.

We had a most fabulous dinner! The dishes were all excellent and plated with attention to aesthetics, plus each side dish was delicious in its own right. All around attention to detail and the service was excellent. Definitely would return and try Chef Dave’s other seasonal menu pairings. Reservations are recommended.

Cambria: Day two

With a hot cup of coffee to go from the Fireside Inn breakfast room, I walked right over to Moonstone Beach boardwalk to catch the last rays of sunrise and watch day two begin. There is nothing quite like morning java with dawn and the beach to start one’s day. And while this mesmerizing scene could keep me there for hours, we were excited for a leisurely hike.

Our docent-led hike through the Fiscalini Ranch Monterey and California coastal oak forest also provided amazing vistas of the ocean and grasslands.

Tip No. 4: Hike the Fiscalini Ranch forest or bluff trails

A weekend highlight for us has to be our Fiscalini Ranch Preserve docent-led walk. While there are many to choose from, we met our guide Brian for a Fiscalini Ranch hike on the corner of Tipton and Warren in the Lodge Hill area of Cambria.

We spent over 2 1/2 hours exploring the mostly level trails through through the Monterey pine and coastal oak forest. He was so knowledgeable about the geological, historical background of the area and most helpful with the flora and fauna of the preserve.

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The hours flew by as we strolled along paths with fresh wood chips. A few spots of standing water and mud but very walkable. At first Brian shared about the plant and animal life in the forest but weaved in appropriate talks on poisonous plants, tree insect and disease issues as well as information on native peoples and their history. We loved the walk from forest, to grasslands to amazing ocean views from the bluffs!

As it was January, much of his talk centered on mushrooms and other forest flora. His information was encyclopedia-eek and very personable and relational.

And while I absolutely loved finding and talking about nearly 20 variety of mushrooms on our walk, Brian brought us to where at least 10,000 Monarch butterflies congregated during their annual migration. At times hundreds were clumped together and suddenly they took off to fill the sky with their orange and yellow hues. This was a spectacular moment!

Be sure to read and make plans to sign up for one of five docent-led Fiscalini Ranch walks. These include a bluff, forest loop, grasslands and loop, special interests walks and school-related walks. Download a Fiscalini Ranch map for an idea of where you will travel. January through April are great months to return to the ranch as every couple of weeks the flora and fauna change dramatically. For instance, February – April are whale watching months.

After a yummy taco lunch from Boni’s Tacos, who by the way sets up on the corner of Main and Burton, we spent some time in Fermentations Wine Shop and The Vault Gallery. These are great examples of locals celebrating what they do best and we laud their efforts.

There are 10 wineries from Morro Bay to San Simeon along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. Cambria alone has five wineries. Can you name all five? Four of them have Main Street addresses and the fifth, Stolo Family Vineyards is on Santa Rosa Creek Rd.

Tip No. 5: Wine tasting in Cambria

Stolo Family Vineyards creates award-wining Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay varietals. They are located on Santa Rosa Creek Road.

Besides Cutruzzola Vineyards I mentioned earlier, we also visited drove out to Stolo Family Vineyards. We met up with Tina, the tasting room manager, and had a fabulous time chatting with her about the Stolo story and wines on a most gorgeous day.

Tina shared how owners Don and Charlene Stolo’s desire to escape southern California to Cambria to reset and relax. After 20 years of visiting the area, Don and Charlene decided that this would be the place to retire. They found it on the rural road of Santa Rosa Creek and purchased the 53 acres of beautiful coastal land with an 1880s farmhouse and a huge redwood dairy barn in 2002.

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The nine-acre Hillside vineyard was planted in 1998 under the guidance of renowned Rhone-style vineyard owner and wine maker, John Alban. Its varietals, clones and rootstock are an ideal match for the climate and soils on the property. This piece and their other vineyards are in a perfect spot to grown Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Northern Rhone Syrah. The Stolo wines are fabulous. I picked up two bottles and look forward to pairing them with future TalesoftheCork dinners.

We tasted through many of these and need to return to better appreciate this amazing winery. The property is gorgeous with plenty of room for picnics, parties and group wine tastings. Their first vintage was in 2004 and Stolo Vineyards has scored 90+ for many of their wines. Take the time to drive out to Stolo Family Vineyards and be sure to allow time to wander the property besides time for wine tasting.

With the afternoon winding down, Geena and I headed back into Cambria. We weren’t ready for dinner so a stroll in East Cambria sounded wonderful. It’s easy to stop and chat with shopkeepers and those doing much the same as us. We ended up browsing a couple of antique shops, sat at an outdoor table, chatting over a half sandwich, coffee and a smoothie.

Plus we also fit in a shorter walk along Moonstone Beach boardwalk to beef up our appetites for dinner. And while there were plenty of walkers and joggers, we found lots of spots to lose ourselves in the cool breeze, birdwatch and listen to the seals.

Dinner No. 2: Black Cat Bistro

We heard that chef and owner Mauricio Lopez and chef Joel Magana have created quite a name for Black Cat Bistro since 2002, so dinner day two was anticipated. The eclectic combination of decor and art in the small 45-seat three room bistro was originally a house built in the 1930s.

The Black Cat Bistro in Cambria provides intimate dining appeal with excellent service. Wood floors, lots of colorful fabrics, down pillows adorn the rooms.

Chef has taken great care in not only selecting local farm produce but in pairing the foods with local wines.The restaurant has a Wine Spectator award of excellence the last nine years.

We ordered a three-course meal off the Black Cat Bistro menu, beginning with New England style clam chowder. The Black Cat Bistro’s clam chowder has a reputation for this dish and previously won Best of Show and Chowder/Bisque Award winner at the annual Soupabration in Morro Bay in 2015. This was a no-brainer and definitely a beauty and bowl-licking good bowl!

Wine Enthusiast Editors awarded the Cutruzzola 2013 Pinot Noir Giacomino Reserve 94 points.  earlier, I had to open a bottle I received and paired it with my dinner choices. The was what I went there for so I had to pair it with the chowder, gnocchi and duck. Oh my gosh, this wine is a MUST for Pinot lovers.

After the earlier trip to Cutruzzola, I just had to open a Cutruzzola 2013 Pinot Noir Giacomino Reserve. I couldn’t wait to pair it with the chowder, beet gnocchi and duck. Oh my gosh, this wine is a MUST for Pinot lovers.

The Giacomino Reserve is a Wine Enthusiast Editors 94-point wine. The longer barrel aging in new oak is perfect. Aromas and flavors of blackberry and black cherry compliment the toasty oak, savory herb and earthy notes in a lush mouthfeel and finish. This is a fabulous wine that paired very well with all part of my meal.

The beet gnocchi and shrimp dish with shiitake, cremini, saffron martini cream, radicchio, asiago and sage was also tasty. Love the sauce and earthy flavors. The gnocchi was also recommended and did not disappoint.

Finally, the server recommended the Maple Leaf duck breast with mushroom red wine barley risotto, baby boo chop, cherry duck jus and thyme. I’m a weakling for duck so I jumped at it. My mouth still waters thinking about this pairing. Well done chef.

Geena ordered the sea scallops topped with crab, in a corn pudding, tomatillo cream, mushrooms, cilantro and butter. This is perfect for those seeking a top shelf seafood meal.  She paired the seafood with a Tablas Creek 2015 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (white Rhone blend). Without a doubt, a delicious pairing. Not counting the Cutruzzola Pinot, the bill was just over $88, plus tip. Again, well done.

Put the Black Cat Bistro on your list of dining to-dos the next time you are in Cambria or on the Central Coast. Reservations are recommended.

Cambria: Day three

The best way to ease into a last day of vacation is to already know where your coffee or tea is coming from, plan a spot to enjoy it and let most of the morning pass without a destination. We enjoyed the ocean view from our Fireside Inn patio. With choices like Sandy’s Deli and Bakery and Cambria Coffee Roasting Company in West village just a couple of minutes away, I didn’t mind driving Moonstone Beach Drive for fresh goodies.

Our view from the patio of the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive.

Tip No. 6: Visit elephant seals

A mid January through March visit to Cambria also should include a visit to the elephant seal vista point at San Simeon. This is a great way to explore north of Cambria with not a lot of extra driving, especially if a visitor would like to take one of many Hearst Castle’s tours the same day.

The Elephant seal population along the beach swells to over 17,000 individuals as the come ashore. Females give birth during January and February. These mammals spend eight to ten months in the open ocean each year and migrate thousands of miles twice a year to birth, breed, molt and rest on San Simeon area beaches. Tours to the area are organized by the Friends of the Elephant Seal. For a 30-90 minute docent-led tour and information about the elephant seal rookery, call ahead for reservation and visit them as they assemble at their San Simeon address.

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Geena and I drove to the elephant viewing area north of San Simeon. It is only a 20-minute drive from Cambria along some of the most gorgeous coastal scenery. The rolling hills and occasional sightings of whales off the coast or zebras on the Hearst Castle ranch make the 14-mile trip fly by.

The view of the elephant seal rookery from the viewing area north of San Simeon.

There is plenty of free parking at the elephant seal viewing area. Kiosks are stuffed with pamphlets and signage to help visitors understand what they are seeing. Friends of the Elephant Seal provide invaluable information both on site and online. Elephant seal males can weigh in at over 5,000 pounds and are as large as small pickup trucks. With babies born at 70 pounds and nearly four feet long, the whole spectacle is an amazing experience. We’ve been numerous times and are in awe each visit.

Walking the beach at San Simeon.

Looking ahead: March is also the perfect time to spot whales off the central coast from Morro Bay to Monterey. Book a whale watching excursion out of Morro Bay and/or a tour of the famed Piedras Blancas Light Station.  Take the time to visit their websites, call ahead and tour the light station or go whale watching.

In the past we also walked the pier at San Simeon Bay. There are also picnic areas and a great stretch of sandy beach. Be sure to stop in at Sebastian’s Store as well for your deli sandwiches and you might even taste Heart Ranch Winery offerings there.

Tip No. 7: Eat a Red Moose Cookie

Finally, we ate a late picnic lunch we purchased at Sebastian’s on a pullout along Highway 1, overlooking the ocean. Priceless. . . . and arrived back in Cambria by 3 p.m.

However, the coastal retreat weekend would not be complete without a stop at our favorite Cambria shop: Red Moose Cookie Co.

Red Moose Cookie Co. is one of Cambria’s hidden gems.

It’s as local as it gets and only two people make, market and sell the amazing Red Moose Cookies from an industrial park of all places. Using only love, butter and the finest ingredients, owners Roger Wall and Caren Hammond use their passion for cooking and baking to create memorable cookies for immediate consumption and for the ride home and beyond.

So with cookies in hand, a bag for the road and freezer once we got home, Geena and I decided  on one last stop before driving the 2 1/2 hours back to Fresno.

Tip No. 8: Scout lodging options for next trip

With another visit to Cambria already a given, a little pre ‘next trip’ scouting of one of Cambria’s most talked about lodging was the last item on the ‘check it out list’: Cambria Pines Lodge.

While nestled in the Monterey pine forest area of Cambria, Cambria Pines Lodge encompasses 25 acres or world-class gardens, therapeutic day spa, sparkling outdoor heated pool, soothing hot tub, lovely restaurant. We found the grounds and rooms to offer a peaceful, relaxing setting.

While Moonstone Beach is two miles down Highway 1 and Cambria’s Main Street is at the bottom of the hill, I’d love to stay at the lodge. The rooms are well appointed and the whole place exudes my earlier focus: I want to escape to Cambria and the Pines Lodge is a place to dream that escape.


After touring Cambria Pines Lodge, I could see why many desire its amenities and location despite not being on the famed Moonstone Beach Drive.

Their website promotes itself as a property which provides space for reflection, serenity, and rejuvenation. I walked the gardens and even in winter they  provide an inviting respite for travelers in search of peace and inspiration.

Just walking the grounds and hanging out in the common areas of the lodge provided ample reasons why another Cambria trip will be a successful retreat. There is yet so more to be explored in this quiet, serene, clean and peaceful environment.

Yet even with this being said, the Fireside Inn is a fabulous place to stay on Moonstone Beach. But whether you choose this ocean side spot, there are many other Cambria lodging options and hotel packages available on or on Facebook. Plus Cambria’s Trip Advisor page is also a great way to book hotels.

It will take many more trips to unpack Cambria’s offerings. Whether the villages will be my home base for day excursions or a place to settle for another three-day vacation, Cambria remains on my list as a best central California coastal escape.

Moon over Cambria’s Moonstone Beach.

For another perspective on a wonderful central coast wine experience with a base in Cambria, read travel writer Irvina Lew’s “Wines, waves and wonder along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.” And in addition to Moonstone Cellars in Cambria’s West Village, there are a host of other quality winery stops in the area. In fact there are 10 great wineries along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail from Morro Bay to San Simeon.

Traveling to Cambria
Cambria is 240 miles south of San Francisco and 240 miles north of Los Angeles. For information, contact the Cambria Chamber of Commerce (767 Main St.; 805/927-3624). Another great resource when planning a vacation to the central coast is

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Giornata Wines: Story behind top California Italian brand.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.


Giornata Wines: Story behind top California Italian brand

Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi, twin daughters epitomize brand’s drive to success

The view looking north east on the Giornata Wines property in the hills southeast of Paso Robles.

When the San Francisco Chronicle published 2016 Winemakers to Watch, December 1, 2016, author Esther Mobley’s introduction pointed to characteristics that not only describes Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s passion for Giornata Wines, but I believe describes their kids’ focus as well. I think all four have a “fearless desire to set new paradigms, a bootstrapping ambition and an attention to their craft.”

While Mobley no doubt intends the readership to discover the three other winemakers as well, and no disrespect to them at all, I couldn’t help but think that her quote describes the whole Terrizzi family. All four, including 11-year-old twin daughters, Aida and Kate, exude individual passions, are entrepreneurial-focused and driven, sharing an intense collaboration and close personal family connections.

Brian and Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi relax at the Giornata Winery in Paso Robles.

And during my mid January visit with Stephy and Brian on their Paso Robles area property, not only did I further understand Stephy’s role as viticulturist and Brian as winemaker, but I saw their children’s love for the land, its relationship with the vineyards and winery. I ultimately came to appreciate all four individuals’ vision of enterprise.

While any blog post or article about winemakers needs to include information about their craft and product, the story behind the Terrizzis transcends a case count, Giornata’s net worth or their next and upcoming release. The family’s drive to success actually isn’t just about scores, growing the winery or financial growth.

Instead, Brian, Stephy, Aida and Kate all impressed me as they each wove stories of time spent in the vineyard, winery, soccer and tennis practice, tap dance, rock climbing and hanging out with other local winemaker families. They all spoke about new business ventures, including the next new vintage, a pasta factory in the new Tin City development plus selling soap and bath bombs.

Not only does Stephy Terrizzi looks after the vineyards on the Giornata property, but she also manages the famed Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles.

The Terrizzis own 11 acres just south west of Paso Robles with four acres of vineyards atop a knoll. With plenty of room yet to grow Giornata Wines on the property, Stephy is in charge of their vineyards as well as the famed Luna Matta Vineyard. Brian is the winemaker, markets the wines and is forever Giornata’s dreamer.

While Brian left to pick up the kids from soccer and ballet, I walked the Giornata vineyards with Stephy as she shared her past struggles and excitement for their future plans.

On the south west to southern portion of the property, she described how disappointing it was to watch a 2013 fall Nebbiolo planting die in a December freeze, decimating the vineyard. But their loss today looks healthy and happy as the new acre and a half of Nebbiolo clones planted in 2014 have are doing well.

“Our trips and time working in Italy have shaped us,” Stephy said. “We planted Nebbiolo because of our time in Piedmont. Imagine driving the tops of the hills and those Nebbiolo vineyards in Piedmont. Most all are on the south-facing slopes. We love how well those grapes do there and believe they are an excellent fit for our property. Everything here is planted on 1103 root stock. We replanted vineyard in 2014, using FPS Clones 6 and 8 and the VCR Clone 430.

“We planted the different clones so I could tell and know the difference between all three of them,” Stephy continued. “They are all planted next to each other but we will blend them all together.”

The Giornata winery concept actually took root back in 2003 when Brian Terrizzi moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi, right, at Isole e Olena in Tuscany.

The Giornata brand and Italian adventure really began when Brian moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi at Isole e Olena in Tuscany in 2003. There Brian spent three months during harvest, learning under the man who ‘changed his life.’

Brian would later tell me Paolo taught him how to connect his story with the wine, manage a staff and an insatiable desire to educate and develop a vision to create a world-class brand.

The 2014 Giornata Wines Nebbiolo as poured during my visit to the winery in January 2017. Their Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo consistently earns 92+ points.

After Brian returned to the States, he met Stephy at Fresno State while studying enology, graduating in 2005. Stephy eventually took a position in 2006 in the Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles. Brian continued to work in Fresno at Sam’s Italian Deli, establishing Nick’s Wine Corner and for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants until early 2007. Actually, this is where I first met Brian but never made the connection as our family were friends with the deli owners Sam and Angie at the time.

Giornata Wines became a full-time gig by 2007 and have focused on Italian varietals ever since.

While I spoke with Stephy about most of their premium Italian varietals offerings, on this day we spoke at length about the best varietals to plant on the Giornata property and bottling estate Nebbiolo in the next couple of years.

“The new plants have taken root and as the they go deep and look for water,” Stephy said, “they will do really well on the high Ph soils of our property. Eventually, especially on a wet year like this, we hope to dry farm the Nebbiolo.

“We bought these clones at Novavine Nursery in Santa Rosa as they  are the most tried and true versions in the U.S.,”Stephy said. “I have them planted at Luna Matta as well. They’ve been around a while and have some traction behind them.”

Stephy checks on her Trebbiano vineyard on the Giornata property’s north facing slopes. Daughter Aida will often join her, pulling weeds and helping mom train the vines.

Vineyards surround their home atop their hilltop perch. And as Stephy and I traversed the property with her mud-caked boots, a two-story rock climbing boulder/structure captured my attention as it dominated the hill.

“Kate loves rock climbing and one of our neighbors makes those structures,” Stephy said smiling and shaking her head. “While they both climb on it, its Kate’s thing.”

I nodded as it towered over us and initially obscured the chicken coup at the top of the hill.

“It’s been a tough week,” Stephy said as we walked up to the coup, “because their pet rooster ‘Red’ just died. The girls took it harder than the hens.”

While most would not think twice about a rooster other than when he crows in the morning, ‘Red’ was the family pet, rescued from an underground cock fighting organization.

While I probably said something dumb like ‘any lost egg production?’, I didn’t yet know how passionately they or their twins cared about their pets or philosophy in raising them.

Red was not just a rooster. He was a rescue and probably was nearing 10 years old. The family rescued him from an underground cock fighting organization and he was one of their prized possessions.

As we arrived at the edge of the hill on the opposite side, looking due north, we peered down on the  oldest vines on the property: five rows Trebbiano, a full three years old, arguably the happiest vines on the property. Stephy went on to say they want to blend some Trebbiano in their Sangiovese with co-pigmentation. This is very typical to do in Chianti until about two years ago when the law was changed.

However, our conversation quickly morphed.

Teaching responsibility and ownership happens at an early age for most families. The Terrizzi girls are no exception and care for a brood of chickens each week.

“This is a really fun place to work,” Stephy said. “We have two Italian Greyhounds who come out with me as I work in this area. They run around and catch squirrels, chase after gophers and mice.”

More sustainable practices I thought. Later she shared her admiration about the dogs. They loved the new a puppy and an 11-year-old. Both were adopted from the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation of Northern California.

Both Terrizzi girls are active and use the climbing structure on the property as well as play sports, ballet, music and have their own business.

Stephy is the viticulturist for Giornata Wines but is also the vineyard manager for Luna Matta. She grew up in the midwest in Freeport, Illinois, and, while not on a farm, on the urban edge of a farming community. Growing up she was in 4-H, could milk cows and rope cattle and staunchly insists she still can.

Her work is already well documented by blogs and WordPress siteswine brokers and wine writer Jon Bonne wrote in his best selling book, The New California Wine: “Stephy has become the area’s great alternative vineyardist…making the most successful Nebbiolo yet in the state.”

High praise for a mom who still helps the girls make Valentine’s cards during the Monday before pink day, even though she would rather be pruning Giornata’s four acres of vineyards or on her prized Luna Matta site. But today she shared her dream and also spoke of future plans for her property.

“We would love to put in hazelnut and oak trees and start a truffle project at the bottom of this grade,” Stephy said, “but we really do not have enough water. We pump about two gallons a minute already but we have some big tanks to hold water but its not enough to do truffles.

The Giornata property looking North towards Paso Robles.

“But at the bottom of the hill, we would like to do some bee boxes and a pig breeding project,” Stephy continued. “We already have a tack house at the bottom of the hill that used to house a horse before we bought the acreage. In fact, my daughter, Aida, wants to get involved and is saving up her money to buy a Llama. And I see 4-H in her future. Kate on the other hand will probably be a lifelong Girl Scout.”

The girls again. Later I found out, they too are entrepreneurs. With Aida taking on the ‘CEO’ role and Kate as the ‘CFO’ the twins own, operate, create, sell and deliver soap and bath bombs to their classmates, parents and occasionally to those who visit the winery. They even have participated in beauty and wellness shows in Atascadero. They take orders at school, make the products over the weekend and deliver the next week.

Their drive to create and sustain a brand takes passion, vision and a willingness to do more and do it longer than anyone else. This describes the Terrizzi family from the kids on up.

Stephy Terrizzi is a well-renown and respected viticulturist as well as a sommelier. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 /

“I may also try Nerello Mascalese,” Stephy said. “I believe we can get this highly regarded Sicilian grape varietal next year on root stock. This is very exciting and I really would like to grow that. While this still might be two years away for us, we will see what happens but I definitely want some here.

“Down the road we would like to take the Trebbiano, the Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla, and do a skin contact white estate blend,” Stephy continued. “We should be able to get six tons of fruit from this property on a normal year. We can get a ton and a half of Sangiovese and two and a half to three tons of Nebbiolo.”

Giornata Wines is also known for their Sangiovese that is currently sourced from Luna Matta Vineyard and another Sangiovese crop that is farmed by a project run by James Ontiveros (formally of Bien Nacido) and Matt Turrentine. But Stephy is careful to point out that she is very picky as to how others manage their vineyards and ultimately their Sangiovese juice.

“What is really important to me is the farming aspect,” Stephy said. “We clearly live on our property and so it is important to treat the land in a respectful manner because we live here. We drink the water that we are ‘standing on top of’ right now so I don’t use herbicides at all.

“We don’t use a whole lot of anything,” Stephy continued. “Now as the grapes begin to develop, we will use fungicides but I strongly believe creating an ecosystem that is balanced. As you can see we have a cover crop of grasses. But we want to make sure we have lacewings around to keep the aphids and leafhoppers (in check) because when you do something, something else happens on the other side of the equation.”

Stephy Terrizzi sustainability in practice focus is at the core of her vineyard efforts and Giornata wines are increasingly known as the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 /

The Giornata wines are at the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California.

When it comes to sustainability, Stephy also is not only focused on what is best for her vineyards but for the land she loves, lives on. Sustainability is essential to continued success and a healthy balance.

“There is only so much land and as people move to California, and I am included in that. I am not a native Californian, it is important to keep this land healthy and not saturate it with synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. We’ve read in the last five-six years about the bee population plummeting. We’ve got almond and walnut trees on this property and without the bees … well and I’ve read that we’ve only got two years worth of food … and without the bees, we will all begin to starve. That is kind of a scary thought.

“We plan to get some bees out here pretty soon in February, get those up and running. It is really important to keep this balance and not become a monoculture and not let one thing take over another. It’s important to keep the balance on the property itself from vine to vine and have everything in harmony.”

Italy meets California in Tin City area of Paso Robles. Owners and winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi create premium Italian varietals. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 /

This is similar to the Terrizzi winemaking philosophy well. Like many who use biodynamic and sustainable practices, winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s wines are natural and express a sense of place whether they are from their own properties or from area vineyards. Look for Giornata winery in the Tin City, which is quickly becoming the “epicenter of the burgeoning craft beverage community of Paso Robles,” according to developer Mike English.

Be sure to return to TalesoftheCork for Part II of the Giornata Wine story at the end of February. TalesoftheCork will further outline Brian and Stephy’s journey as they strive to create the finest Italian varietals in California. The upcoming post will detail more of Brian’s winemaker journey, latest releases and the couple’s new venture to open the summer of 2017.

Giornata Wines can be ordered via their website or and via the Tin City winery. They are located at 470 Marquita Ave., Paso Robles, CA, 93446. For more information, call their store: (805) 434.3075 or via email: Be sure to call, email or make online reservations in order to visit the winery. The are only open for tastings by appointment.

Giornata Wines are known as California’s premium Italian varietals, including their Sangiovese, Barbera, Aglianico, Vermentino, Fiano, Ramato, Gemellaia, Nebbiolo, and blends.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis

Ponderosa pine interior, menu highlights Old Town opening


After closing just after New Years and a full-scale remodel nearing completion, chef and Clovis restauranteur Chris Shackelford is ready to reinvent Trelio Restaurant, January 27, 2017.

With a brand new interior of custom designed and manufactured local Ponderosa pine food grade tables, paneling, wine cabinets and bar, Trelio is ready to open their doors and serve a new menu

Opening in 2006 as an upscale, fine dining establishment on Clovis Avenue in Old Town Clovis,  Trelio has evolved from regional american cuisine that not only represents the locally grown and produced bounty  of the San Joaquin Valley, but also the changing food interests of the Fresno area and its owner.

Trelio sous chef Thomas Stempien, left, and chef Chris Shackelford chat in the kitchen during dinner prep on re-opening night, Jan. 27, 2017.

And, while the central Valley’s dining options continue to expand and contract, often between the whims, perception and the harsh realities of economics, Trelio has been a stabilizing force in the Clovis dining scene even as owner and chef Chris Shackelford adjusted to both his and patrons’ expectations and desires.

“(In the beginning), we slowly migrated from being the ‘French Laundry’ of the central Valley to being more of a farm-to-table restaurant and comprehensive dining option in a European style,” Shackelford said. “That being said, we also enjoy the ties to regional cuisine of America.”

Trelio’s is food and wine centric. Every entrée and small dish they create is from scratch, including baking their own bread. As the restaurant has evolved and grown, owner  and patrons alike place an emphasis on cooking, food and wine pairings.

“There are a lot of correlations between our menu and the wine offerings as well as correlations between the wine list and the food we serve,” Shackelford said. Styles and ingredients may change but our core is European.

“The food is a mix being that I have a French core technique, but we create homemade pasta dishes, seafood, steaks, wild game to tapas dishes that might be found in Barcelona,” Shackelford continued. “Heck, nothing is off-limits. We might even offer a Mexican dish or even offer Armenian or Persian.

And as the San Joaquin Valley has such a diversity of people and culture that have made the area one of the greatest agricultural industries in the world, Trelio has made it a point to be relevant and reflect that diverse cuisine with a distinctly European flair.

The new Trelio dining room is completely refurbished with Ponderosa pine tables, banquettes, paneling and a new bar milled from Sierra foothills trees above North Fork.

However, Shackelford and the new Trelio is adjusting its focus even as the chef and owner battles complacency in and out of the kitchen. He said he needed to change things up and began to change the menu about a year ago.

“We decided to shift the restaurant in what I believe to be the trending style to smaller plates, less expensive dinners,” he said. “We’ve basically been doing much the same for the last 11 years and decided to shift our focus.”

Trelio used many of the 70 dead Ponderosa pine trees from Jim Shackelford’s (Chris’ father) property to form the furnishings in the restaurant, including the tables.

When the Shackelford brothers opened the restaurant in 2006, Chris quit his job and jumped in. This time he wanted to be more methodical in his vision for Trelio.

“I’ve been planning (changes) now for about six months with construction going on for about three months (furniture being built, etc.),” he said. “We are losing a few tables as part of a quality issue. We want to be full every night, keep our costs under control (food, staff) and be core, quality oriented.”

While the old Trelio had 12 tables, the 2017 version will only have eight including two sets of banquettes (up to 10 on each side for larger groups). The new menu is designed to be less expensive (up to 50 percent cheaper) and the portions are downsized by 20 percent to allow people to try other courses.

“The goal is to serve customers so they will not be overly full and be able to enjoy multiple dishes over an evening,” Shackelford said. “The menu is expanded, larger than it used to be. These options will be able to be put out (created) at a quicker pace. Simpler styles and more quality oriented dishes.”

Chef, Sommelier and owner Chris Shackelford has changed the Trelio menu to reflect new techniques, expanded and less expensive offerings.

Besides special events, wine tastings, holiday and winemaker dinners, Trelio is also offering a new take on dinner in the dining room.

“I wanted a way to develop dishes or introduce new techniques to the staff, so three to four times a month, we we do ‘bar dinners,'” Shackelford said. “We only have four-five seats at the bar for longer and specialized wine paired dinners hosted by me, the sommelier and chef.”

He went on to explain that this would be an extended prefix menu, a rare opportunity to experience an artistic version of a dinner that will most often be theme oriented. Examples might be a Cajun dinner during Mardi Gras to a French dinner on Bastille Day.

Those who are interested in a bar dinner will sit with guests at a beautiful 16X4-foot custom made solid natural distressed Ponderosa pine top complete with rustic wood edges cut from father Jim Shackelford’s property in the Sierra foothills above North Fork. He had over 70 dead and/or dying trees and hired The WoodShed of Clovis to mill and manufacture the bar, tables, open wine cabinets and paneling that now graces Trelio’s interior.

The whole interior is custom and brilliant in its natural state of light reddish-brown, grey/blue hues as well as the knotty highlights and nail or insect holes associated with each tree. The Woodshed contractors completed all the fine woodwork in a refurbished Trelio to complement the new grey color scheme.

Trelio’s menu is expanding and besides offering more dishes, the entreés will cost less and be 20 percent smaller.

While Trelio is already booked through Feb. 4, reservations are already filling up beginning  Feb. 7. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday and guests looking for a relaxed, upscale dining experience that is centered around handcrafted food, an Wine Spectator award-winning wine list and personal service should consider Trelio for dinner.

Upcoming events on Trelio’s calendar include a Winter Wine Tasting, Feb. 4; a special Valentine’s dinner, Feb. 11 & 14; winemaker dinner with David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars, Feb. 23. The dinner at the bar special series begins Feb. 28 for “Fat Tuesday at the Bar.” Please call ahead for availability and reservations.

Look for Trelio Restaurant near the Clovis Gateway to the Sierras sign on Clovis Avenue.

Reservations are recommended as Trelio will only seat 32-36 patrons per evening. Call (559) 297-0783, visit Trelio Restaurant on the web or use ‘Seat Me’ via Yelp. Trelio has seating times Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Trelio is located at 438 Clovis Ave, Clovis, CA 93612.

Today, Chris Shackelford continues the Trelio Restaurant tradition and acts both as Trelio’s sommelier, chef and owner. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 13 years old under a variety of central coast restaurants and chefs and at Erna’s Elderberry House for nine years before opening Trelio in 2006.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.


Dinner pairings with Buena Vista Wines

California’s first premium winery continues excellence

Buena Vista Winery old and new |

Whether or not you trace back California winemaking to pre Gold Rush days or after Prohibition, grape and wine production in California rivals any region in the world. And as we tasted through three wines from a reborn Buena Vista Winery, our appreciation for this Sonoma winery goes beyond its historic sites.

Founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count”, Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery.

The Count’s passion for innovation and excellence not only led to California’s first premium winery, but also to the development of the California wine world as we know it today. The Count saw the grand vision for producing fine wine in Sonoma County, and Buena Vista was his vinicultural laboratory.

Buena Vista property began producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard pre-Gold Rush. The land was developed by The Count of Buena Vista, Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary. |

He created the first gravity flow winery in California and excavated the first wine caves. The Count had been the first to experiment with Redwood barrels for aging and fermenting, and he brought over 300 different varieties from Europe to California.

Now fast forward to last week, Geena and I paired three Buena Vista wines over the course of a week, tasting new releases from the winery known for “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ and exceptional wines. While the winery’s revival is well documented, we had not sampled Buena Vista wines for years.

The impetus behind this week with Buena Vista was an invitation from the folks at Owner and leader Lin shared how this historic winery created the first California property to make a true Champagne in Champagne. I was hooked and looked forward to receiving my shipment and began reading its history.

The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend is sourced from Buena Vista Wineries Sonoma properties.

We learned the Buena Vista property already was producing wine on an old, dry-farmed vineyard on the site pre Gold Rush. In 1852, under the direction “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa of Hungary, the 800-acre ranch was purchased and developed.

The Count understood that great wine comes not just from great grapes, but also from great terroir—that magical combination of all the attributes of a particular site required to create remarkable wines—from the soil, to the climate, to the site’s exposure to the sun, to the vine itself. Upon first experiencing Sonoma, The Count knew immediately that this was going to be that perfect place for producing superb wines.

I agree!

Throughout the decades, The Count’s innovation and legacy have been passed down to others over the years; the property’s historic relevance and central role in California’s history kept the winery alive and producing wines during difficult years. And while others owned a produced wine on the property, it wasn’t until after World War II ended that the vineyards began their journey to a premium winery location.

However, after it was reborn, after Prohibition and first vintage in 1949, the winery and its owners began to promote innovation, championing new winemaking techniques to the state—including cold fermentation and the process of aging wine in small French oak barrels—thereby once again contributing to the rebirth of California’s incredible wine industry.

Our Mexican steak, homemade refried beans, roasted red peppers, sliced avocados and fresh fruit were a wonderful match to the Buena Vista The Count Founder’s Red Wine Blend.

Our first taste of Buena Vista Wine was just after we opened a bottle of 2014 The Count Founder’s Red Wine blend ($20). I popped the cork just after 2 p.m. and decanted it for 30 minutes before sending it back to the bottle. I wanted to open it up a little before sipping while we prepared dinner (a common practice of mine with young wines).

The fact is cooking and tasting both wine and the foods as we create is so important. While we often will look at up dozens of receipes in the planning process of our meals, we test taste, herbs, spices, simmering broths and sauces ALONG with wine to determine which food and wine pairings compliment each other.

The Count countered the spices in the beans and Mexican steak very well. You might also pair it with BBQ beef or country-style pork ribs.

Sourced from vineyards across Sonoma County, the 2014 vintage of The Count – Founder’s Red Wine offers aromas of rich, dark chocolate and soft baking spices, blending 8 varietals. Aromas include dark chocolate, dark berry, plum with hints of cinnamon and vanilla (baking spices). Nicely strucured and well-balanced, this wine has a long, dense finish that lingers long after the first sip.This immediately enjoyable wine will continue to evolve in the bottle over the next two to three years.

We paired The Count with pan-fried Mexican flat iron steak that we had covered with an oil, chipotle and cracked pepper run for a couple of hours. While those sat, we prepared roasted red peppers, cooked up a pot of spiced refried beans, sliced avocados and mangos and blood orange wedges.

Our second Buena Vista wine pairing coincided with a stormy, wet, and cold January night. We had planned on a second steak dinner the night before, opening the Cab, hoping to pair it with ribeye. However, the storm changed our minds.

The Chateau Buena Vista 2013 Napa Valley Cab. was silky smooth and we couldn’t help but start sipping while the soup simmered.

The weather report predicted an epic cold front and storm far beyond “dreary and wet” in the San Joaquin Valley a couple days later. So we were a bit nervous as we had already opened the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) and were eager to try it, not wanting to wait another night.

“Is it versatile and pair with a hearty, Italian soup?” Oh boy, we were thrilled.

The Cab is rich, lush and opulent. Red currant, blackberry, black plum and black, dusty cherry with just a hint of chocolate and even coffee. The dark, subdued dark fruit flavors were delicious with the soup my wife calls, “Mimi’s Soup” after her great aunt who made the family recipe for nearly 90 years.

So Mimi’s Soup takes center stage: Chopped vegetables (whatever is in the kitchen, pantry and fridge at time of creation, including kale, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, stewed and/or fresh tomatoes, bits of potato) spices, white and kidney beans, orzo etc. We cook the Italian sausage separately with spices, onions and garlic (at the end), adding beef stock and top with Parmesan cheese.

This is a showstopper all around. Love how versatile the Cabernet is and I know this would pair well with lighter grilled meats. Wilfred Wong of calls the 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon the “poster child” of the winery. He’s not far from the truth.

The 2013 Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley was lovely velvety goodness with “Mimi’s Soup”, a hearty Italian perfect on a stormy, cold January evening.

Buena Vista Winery joined the Boisset Collection in May 2011. Today, Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset is returning Buena Vista to its original glory with the complete restoration and re-opening of the champagne cellars, which have been unavailable to the public for over 20 years. Buena Vista wines are being driven to greater heights under winemaker Brian Maloney and winemaking consultant David Ramey, including the reintroduction of Sonoma, in honor of where it all began.

Our final Buena Vista wine actually was created as a Boisset Family Wine and from their collection in Champagne, France. Yes, they have a marvelous sparkling wine from France called Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne ($75!

The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is elegant, with honey and brioche aromas with stone fruit, pear and peach notes.

Later during our Buena Vista week, we had so much fun thinking about and pairing this Champagne with all sorts of foods and came up with three or four that really seemed to capture our attention. The sparkling was elegant and paired so well with an assortment of appetizers.

We set the table with sour cream & onion potato chips, sour cream and caviar, mixed Italian olives, puffed pastry and Brie with sour cherry preserves, and finally smoked salmon, cucumber, shallots over a dollop of Crème Fraîsch with dill, lemon oil and lemon peel on a Spanish Regains “Tapas” Sesame Cracker from Pardners Pantry, Atascadero.On a side note, I must admit, I did save a little Buena Vista Champagne for a late night popcorn and movie time. One of my favorite snacks all around.

Anyway, the sparking is sourced from 70% Pinot Noir Premier Cru vineyards from Montaigne de Reims, and 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru Mesnil sur Oger and Chouilly.

Love the Champagne’s elegant mouthfeel with grapefruit, honey and brioche aromas. It is so well-balanced with white stone fruit, peach and peach notes. We really enjoyed this sparkling with so many different snacks. And, I know it will go so well with most anything.

The Buena Vista La Victoire Champagne is so versatile. The bubbly paired well with appetizers, including potato chips and caviar, Italian mixed olives, baked Brie and sour cherry preserves and smoked salmon, cucumber bites.

The Buena Vista wine cellars have undergone extensive restoration from 2011 to 2015 when the renovation was completed. Once again, Buena Vista is becoming the embodiment of the California wine world.

This is the vision that Count Agoston Haraszthy predicted 150 years ago and continues with Jean-Charles Boisset to today, and like many of his other visions for the Golden State, today it has come true.

The caves at Buena Vista Winery.

Today the hope and vision of The Count has been restored and reinvented again. Jean-Charles Boisset and his family purchased the Buena Vista Winery in 2011, beginning a two-year renovation that has refocused and renewed Buena Vista Winery into a world class site. They join a collection historic wineries as part of Boisset Family Estates. Buena Vista produces over 25 varietals of still wines as well as sparkling wines from both California and France.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Cambria Art and Wine Festival, Jan. 27-29

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events


Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!

In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.


Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos CellarsChateau MargeneCuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.


Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.