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.

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.

Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest

32 wineries pour best blends in sold out central coast event

After walking along Cambia’s Main Street, enjoying its great shops, wine tasting, restaurants and art galleries, take the time to stroll the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach.

Within hiking distance of the Fiscalini Ranch‘s majestic Monterey pines, coastal oak forest and amazing bluff ocean views, Cambria hosted the ONLY wine festival dedicated to blended wines: BlendFest, Jan. 13-15. And with a second wine event at the end of the month, Cambria is heating up as a winter wine destination (More on that below).

The 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest on the Coast was a blast, showcasing the scenic beauty of the central coast with the renowned wines of Paso Robles, only miles away. Over 400 tickets were sold over four blend-themed events, including the Grand Tasting, Winemaker Dinner and two Blending Seminars that pleased both Bordeaux and Rhone variety lovers.

32 wineries poured their newest blends during the 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest, Jan. 13-15, 2017.

BlendFest on the Coast partnered with Cambria and San Simeon lodging properties, Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, who hosted the three-day event along with Stewardship Travel.

This year 32 Paso Robles wineries, pouring over 90 blends and hosts to local winemakers, winery personnel and wine enthusiasts from across the country, shared a passion for central coast red blends.

According to Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country, the combined efforts were to create an event in the off season to get people out of the area to Cambria and San Simeon for a wine event that is both fun and a great consumer experience.

BlendFest is an event of our creation,” Taranto said, “to create a groundswell of excitement, travel to Cambria and San Simeon that turns people onto wine that they will take to their next trip to Paso but in the meantime have a great coastal experience.”

The event along with partner Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers wine lovers a chance to sip, savor and compare the artistry of blending and a chance to chat with winemakers and fellow blend enthusiasts. While we hoped to get tickets to the exclusive Winemaker Dinner, all 42 seats were snapped up pretty quick (Note: call, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country website early and check for 4th annual event by mid summer).

Taranto likes the winemaker dinner as it provides more of an intimate experience than the events later in the weekend.

Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria hosted the BlendFest Winemaker’s dinner, pairing Paso Robles wine in a four-course meal.

“Each winery takes ownership of a table and leads a one-on-one dining experience with his/her guests, personally pairing the wines with the courses served by the restaurant,” Taranto said. “This is specially prepared meal and wine pairing: Real food and an honest experience with Paso wine. Each table had a different experience, reflecting the personalities of the winemaker and chefs.”

Seven winemakers met with guests at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria for a four-course winemaker dinner and wine pairing, Jan. 13. Imagine Alta Colina Vineyard & WineryAncient Peaks WineryHarmony CellarsJ. Lohr Vineyards & WinesLone MadroneMCV Wines and Niner Wine Estates winemakers all pouring and sharing how their wines pair well with chefs Robin Covey and Shanny Covey’s culinary creations. Put me on the list for 2018!

A docent-led hike in Cambria’s urban forest, ocean bluffs or other walks are wonderful ways to appreciate the central coast.

But before we settled in for a wine blending session, my wife and I decided to independently join in on a docent-led stroll through Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch forest not far from the Cambria Pines Lodge. Our guide, Stephen Morgan, a long-time Cambria resident, walked and educated us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through the most gorgeous scenery.

He shared the area and ranch’s history, plant and wildlife, forest health and the most amazing vistas in and around the Monterey pines and oak trees. He also added loops through meadows and ocean bluff views that are better than the postcards advertise.

So after a rest and snack at our hotel, the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, we were ready to enjoy the ticket holders ($65) for our first event of BlendFest: The second session of the Grand Tasting, Jan. 14, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the beautiful Cambria Pines Lodge on Burton Drive (The first session took place from 1 – 3 earlier that same afternoon).

The sold out BlendFest Grand Tasting event event gave 32 wineries a chance to meet with over 185 wine drinkers from across the country to meet, chat and discuss Paso Robles blends.

The BlendFest Grand Tasting was split into two sessions with 32 wineries each pouring their latest three Paso Robles blends in the Cambria Pines Lodge.

Sandra and her husband, Tom, drove in from Pismo Beach for a getaway. Tom had planned a weekend away and surprised her with tickets to BlendFest.

“This has been a great weekend as I have spent quality time with my husband, enjoying beautiful wines, great food and visit my daughter nearby.”

With wine and cheese tables, various gourmet food bites (The Pairing Knife–SLO) and plenty of water to season our palate, we enjoyed a two-hour stroll through the wineries’ latest Bordeaux and Rhone blends from the Paso Robles wine region.

Jaclyn from Whittier, CA, heard of the event from Paso Robles Wine Country events. And after a friend, who attended last year, recommended the event, she bought her tickets online.

“I love Grey Wolf’s Soulmate because it is so smooth. I have had a great time tasting through about half of the wineries on our food, wine and romance weekend at the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s great place to stay.”

Lorna from Santa Barbara was sent information to BlendFest by a co-worker and decided to make the weekend a Christmas gift to her husband.

Set in a quiet, wooded setting, the Cambria Pines Lodge and Conference Center hosted BlendFest. Many attendees stayed at the lodge during the event.

“We are making this a romantic wine and food getaway,” Lorna said. “We went to the winemaker dinner last night at Robin’s and it was phenomenal. We ate foods we wouldn’t normally eat like duck liver sauce and bay scallops in a cream sauce. All four course were awesome. Go to Robin’s and eat there. The food is great.”

Winemaker Michael Barreto of Le Vigne Winery brought Bordeaux, Italian and Rhone-based blends to BlendFest.

“The wineries at BlendFest are creating and pouring the best possible wines they can make,” Barreto said. “BlendFest is a good way to taste the best blends that Paso wineries are pouring–in essence their best wines they make. Besides BlendFest is a great way for folks to see the central coast. This is on a three-day weekend in Cambria so there is plenty of time to taste, visit other wineries and still time to enjoy the area. It’s a great weekend event.”

Whether on vacation or a serious wine connoisseur, BlendFest offers wine consumers a chance to swirl, sip and savor Paso Robles blends all under one roof.

Bret from Minnesota happened to be in the area on vacation two weeks ago and had never heard of a blending event before.

“We are wine drinkers back home and love blends,” Bret said. “We’ve been sipping and tasting but I prefer our first one: Zephyr from Zinaida. “It had a lot of flavor, complexity and was very soft. I know I’m gonna tell people back home about this blended wine tasting and how unique it is. But this feels like a natural event for me.”

In an afternoon and evening session, 32 wineries poured three of their latest blends for wine enthusiasts at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Wine, cheese and gourmet food bites were also served.

Matt from Temecula had been planning an anniversary trip to the central coast and it happened to be the same weekend as BlendFest.

“We had gone to the Paso Robles website and found the information on BlendFest,” Matt said. “It seemed like a good idea to spend our 15th anniversary at the event.”

Matt’s wife Kerry said they were cab and cab blend lovers and this event seemed like a natural one to hang out in.

“We also plan on going to other wineries as the Grand Tasting is our only BlendFest event,” Kerry said. “We are headed to Justin, Daou, J. Lohr and Halter Ranch from here.”

Allison from Torrence heard about BlendFest because they are members of Hearst Ranch wine club and heard about the event through their social media.

“BlendFest is a great way to sample a bunch of great wines, there is a great vibe and good food,” Allison said. “Plus, we are staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge. This is so worth it because I don’t have to drive. We come and stay at the lodge a couple times a year and the rooms are great–plus they will take in our dog. They are so dog friendly. We always take in a tour in the area, watch the elephant seals, take a day and wine taste in Paso Robles.”

The Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is right on the beach in San Simeon, five miles north of Cambria.

The final BlendFest event brought four winemakers to a two-part blending seminar at the beautiful Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, Jan. 15.

Emcee David Wilson, host of Grape Encounters Radio, not only supported the event but added a lively, personal and, at times, educational element which kept the 48 of us often laughing and relaxed. David celebrated with us the joy of wine and all “the fun that drinking it, and in this case, blending it, seems to stimulate!”

The great part of the blending seminar, also hosted by the Paso Robles Cab Collective, is that Wilson and three area winemakers shared their thoughts on the characteristics and properties of seven Paso Robles wines. During the two-part blending seminar, they also shared some ideas on how blending each wine into another changes the overall taste and aroma, providing tips and general tasting notes of each varietal.

Working in teams, guests choose to create their own Bordeaux-style blend, led by members of the CAB Collective. In a very short period of time, even wine newcomers became wine apprentices for the morning. Most of us had never considered creating our own blends from five varietals (Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot). With just a little math and chemistry, all of us were on our way to creating brand new blends of our own creation.

Wine lovers just like us sat at five tables of eight. They were from all over the spectrum. And like Tim and Nellie Perry of Inland Empire, we met individuals who made us feel very relaxed and comfortable.

Seated at five tables of eight, budding winemakers used up to five varietals to create their own blend. After 40 minutes of testing, each table voted and submitted their “top blend” to the winemakers and host for judging.

“On the morning of the event, we were second guessing ourselves and thought,’Is this really our thing?'” Tim said. “We’re wine lovers, but definitely not experts. What does a Mortgage loan manager, and a Construction supply sales manager know about wine blending? However, despite being nervous or fear we would feel out of place, it ended up being the exact opposite for us.”

The blending seminar included education and tasting notes and characteristics of five varietals.

The winemakers walked around the room, offering suggestions, answering questions and encouraging risk-taking at each table. Even the most timid created a blend fashioned around their preferences. It was really cool to taste the diversity of blends even at our table of eight. We truly created #drinkwhatyoulike and shared our creations with each other.

“The best part of the event for us was the assignment they gave us,” Nellie said. “We were told to individually blend our own wine from the bottles on table (Of course this was after tasting seven different wines,… yes I said seven!) and then our table group voted on whose wine blend would represent the table for the contest. To our surprise, my husband’s wine blend was chosen to represent table No. 4!”

I agree, this was a blast! We too met people from all over the state at the blending seminars and easily made new friends who had similar interests and fascinating stories. All of them. What a great way to spend a few hours. The bonus was the gorgeous coastal setting of San Simeon just minutes away from Hearst Castle.

Host and emcee David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio, left to right, and winemakers Steward Cameron (Ancient Peaks), Ben Mayo (San Antonio Winery) and Christian Tietje (Rotta Winery), educated and judged the blending seminars.

“At the end, we learned that it is okay to step outside the box,” Nellie said. “Go ahead and play with the wine. It’s okay to mix a few together and get the exact wine you are looking for.

“The extra bonus at the BlendFest event was the delicious BBQ lunch provided by (Higgies World BBQ) served afterwards. So delicious! All in all, it was a such wonderful and fun event that given the opportunity we will definitely do again and maybe invite friends to come along.”

I have to agree. All those who signed up for the two-part blending seminar had the same interests and varying abilities. After a brief education about the Bordeaux varietals on the table, we tasted were given about 40 minutes to create our own unique Bordeaux blend. Later members of each table voted on the top blend. Winners of each table then were judged and the winning table awarded an all-inclusive passport for visiting and tasting privileges at all 22 CAB Collective wineries.

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 Cellars, Chateau Margene, Cuatro 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, “DeLoach Vineyards on the table.” 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.

Boeuf Bourguignon with Deovlet ‘Sonny Boy’

Ryan Deovlet wine pairs well with traditional French dish

Deovlet Wines 2013 “Sonny Boy” is a Bordeaux blend with 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

For the third time in the last month, we have placed a Deovlet wine on our menu. Winemaker Ryan Deovlet has created a marvelous Bordeaux blend, and we paired it with Boeuf Bourguignon. New world wine meets old world passion.

We were introduced to Deovlet Wines by Shannon Westfall and her Vinfluence wine club. She handpicks/curates boutique wines and is dedicated to non-profit support; it is a wonderful combo. More below.

Ryan Deovlet is highly connected not only to his past but the properties he has helped develop and wines he has created. And we are thrilled to have tasted some of his handcrafted wines.

Our latest sips are from a Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’. I opened the bottle early in the afternoon and decanted it, allowing the lush aromas and notes of black plum, dark cherry, cedar, tobacco and hints of dark chocolate to smooth out and develop further. I stole a sip and the lush, smooth tannins already offered a long finish.

The Bordeaux blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new. Additional Cabernet was blended in before bottling bringing the blend to a 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet. Ryan sourced his fruit from  the Vogelzang Vineyard (Merlot) and the Dierberg Star Lane Vineyard (Cabernet).

The name “Sonny Boy” is  a tribute to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons.

At each vineyard site, Ryan carefully manages vines and yields, which are restricted in an effort to achieve the ultimate concentration of flavor.  With respect to Mother Nature, harvest decisions are based intending to display the purest, most natural vineyard expression possible.

Ryan created his ‘Sonny Boy’ blend to push the envelop of blending wines. He began blending them at fermentation. His philosophy is that the “closer you make a blend to the crushed, the more seamless the integration.”

As per his website, he shares  that “as links in a chain, we understand the importance of working together with premium sites and talented winegrowers.  Fruit quality is essential to crafting memorable wines of elegance, balance, and harmony.”

Deovlet says he walks a fine line between Old World-New World wines. “I try to offer a kiss of California sunshine, but I have one foot in the Old World and one foot in California.”

Ryan’s focus on Merlot is a tribute to his father who drank a glass of red wine each night (on doctor’s orders) and became a devotee of the grape varietal.

The name “Sonny Boy” on the Bordeaux blend is a nod to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons. Ryan fondly remembers his grandfather “rattling his cocktail glass, and saying, ‘Sonny Boy’, I need a refill.”

While Pinot Noir is often chosen for our Boeuf Bourguignon, we paired it with a Deovlet Wines 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ Bordeaux blend.

While we often pair our Boeuf Bourguignon with Pinot Noir or a Burgundy from France, we decided to open up the Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ from Happy Canyon. We were trilled from the get-go and loved it.

I love how the house smells when thick sliced bacon and chunks of chuck steak sizzle and sear. Later we added beef broth, tomato paste, a good bottle of Pinot Noir and vegetables to slowly simmer in a cast iron Dutch oven for a few hours. The aromas of cracked black pepper, garlic, Cognac, onions and herbs fill the house all afternoon.

The Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is age worthy and drinkable until 2030. Only 150 cases made.

During this time, the wine opened up and its juicy, smooth tannins filled the glass with aromas of blackberries, toasty vanilla, dark chocolate and spice. As the evening progressed, black currant and an earthiness settled in with hints of bell pepper and leather. This is a full-bodied age-worthy wine with velvety tannins and a lush mouthfeel. The flavors lingered long on the palate.

Foodie and wine lovers have known about Ryan’s prowess for good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since 2009 when he landed a 90-point score from Robert Parker. While he initially sold his wines door-to-door to local restaurants, his wines are sought after bottles. Ryan is committed to purchasing his fruit only from the finest vineyards in Santa Barbara County that form the foundation of his elegant wines.

While his fruit does not always come from certified organic vineyards, Ryan is careful to manage his harvest with minimal invasive techniques. However, he continues to pursue biodynamics, considering for instance, how same lunar cycles affect tides could affect optimal timing for things like racking barrels.

Ryan has developed his winemaking prowess via under the tutelage of local and international winemakers. It is this kind of learn by doing and under the mentorship of skilled artisans that helped shape his passion, artistry, and intuition. His hands-on approach both in the vineyard and in the cellar is evident. Most all of his labels are small lot vintages (usually under 200 cases) with overall production of around 2,000 cases per year.

Ryan Deovlet started in wine journey in Australia in 2004 on an organic farm. Wine & Spirits Magazine named Deovlet Wineries to their Top 100 list in September 2016.

Like many craftsman before him, Ryan continues to learn from the history of those who created wines before him: “those who went before us and showed us the way.”

His journey to create wines that reflect the property they are grown on actually began after he graduated from UC San Diego and a college trip to Hawaii. While there he tasted coffee on a coffee plantation in 2004 and a passion was born. His interest of the concept of farm-to-table was born and decided to educated himself by doing.

He joined a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and moved to Australia at 21. There he became intrigued with all aspects of farming grapes.

Ryan says he learned early on that winemakers cannot separate terroir from the people. His wines reflect his time spent in Australia working the 2004 harvest at Mornington Peninsula at Turramurra Estate and in New Zealand working with vineyard crews in Central Otago and Hawkes Bay.


By 2005 he spent two years working along side Stephen Dooley, owner/winemaker of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. Ryan attributes his foundation and focus to his time spent in the cellar at Stephen Ross. After a couple of years, Ryan took the assistant winemaking position at Red Car Wine Company in 2007. While there, he was able to learn from consulting winemaker David Ramey and top viticulturists Dr. Daniel Roberts and Ulises Valdez.

Later he ending up in Mendoza, Argentina, working with renown winemaker Paul Hobbs at Viña Cobos. By 2008 Ryan founded Deovlet Wines and established a reputation for making exceptional wines on California’s central coast. Today, Ryan is a much sought after winemaker and also creates wines for the Edna Valley’s Biddle Ranch Vineyards and Refugio Ranch near Los Olives in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Old vine Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir is hand-sorted during harvest 2016.

Be sure to find Deovlet Wines on Facebook and Instagram. Currently the 2014 Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is for sale on their website along with their single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay small lot wines. The Deovlet Tasting Room is at 3750 Highway 46 in Templeton, California 93465 (Paso Robles). It is open Thursday – Sunday (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Call 805.712.8817. The Deovlet Winery is at 203 Suburban Rd., Suite 2, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Call them at 805.550.6300 or email them at The best way to get their wines though is to join their mailing list and wine club.

Special thanks to Shannon Westfall and her wine club for sharing a bottle with me. Please check out her site as she shares unique fine wines not available in stores. These are independent vintners, under the radar creating wines as true “craftsmen”, whose practices in the vineyard are sustainable and organic where possible.  Shannon includes a winemaker profile, stories and notes. club members receive three or six bottles of artisanal wine from a different winemaker each month for $100/$200. Plus she donates to one of three causes with each shipment. Check them out.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Yorba Wines: Sutter Creek’s premier label.” 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.