Places I Love usually involve all my senses; taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Like wine and grape growing, it involves terroir and that sense of place. This connection is dear to me, especially visiting the destinations of San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande. My journey begins the minute I exit the tunnel on Highway 101 as it turns away from the ocean inland in Santa Barbara County. The view of the random oak tree standing apart from a tranquil pasture sets me in the mood for my special place.
San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande
San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande represent a happy place. It gives me great pleasure to reminisce about visiting my father’s ranch on Corbett Canyon Road in Arroyo Grande, walking around the pond, and viewing the animals, including a llama named Michael, named after Michael Jackson because this llama came from Neverland. I remember potluck get-togethers with friends after the local dog shows. It characterizes a time when I was close to my father.
I remember the wineries I visited and the restaurants I frequented, including those still existing. In San Luis Obispo, walking along the creek, seeing bubble gum alley, or visiting the farmers market were some of our favorite pastimes. Our family often ventured to the Five Cities; Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano.
A recent trip brought back those memories because each location I visited had some connection with the past or an association with part of my life. Although the area has evolved since the 1990s, the charm and warmth still exist, attracting me to this region on the Central Coast.
The Wineries Then and Now
My visit started at Stephen Ross Winery. Located in an industrial area of San Luis Obispo, I did not expect a connection to my past, but as we sampled wine, I discovered that Stephen Ross grows grapes in partnership at Stone Corral Vineyard on Corbett Canyon Road with Talley and Kynsi. I wondered if the vineyard property was the back 75 acres my father sold to Talley. I figured I would learn more when I visited Talley.
Often my father spoke of Talley, but I never had the privilege of visiting. On this trip, after meeting Brian Talley, I understood the importance this family had on grape growing and general agriculture in the Edna Valley. Growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with other varieties, I learned part of the answer to my mystery. The Stone Corral Vineyard fronts Corbett Canyon, so it was not the property Talley purchased from my father.
Talley cultivates many white grapes at Oliver’s Vineyard, which lies behind and adjacent to Stone Corral Vineyard, and that too is not the property from my memories. The mystery is still unsolved, but if I were to guess, Talley purchased the property to farm vegetables. Hopefully, Brian will help me discover how they utilized the back acreage in the future.
In the past, my husband and I ventured across the street to Corbett Canyon Winery from the ranch. Today that winery is Center of Effort, known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Its name describes a point on a sailboat when everything is in perfect balance. For me, it signifies the balance between past and present and the alignment of today’s sustainability in farming reflected at many of the vineyards in the Edna Valley.
Several years ago, I discovered Chêne Vineyards, a property located next door to the ranch entrance. The property has since sold, and while I visited Center of Effort, Nathan, the winemaker, suggested introducing me to the woman that farms Chêne Vineyards. I met Gina Guigni, Lady of Sunshine Wines, who farms biodynamically. As Gina and I walked the vineyards, Gina mentioned she acquired her passion for biodynamics from her parents, who grow grapes in El Dorado County. Knowing one biodynamic winery in El Dorado, I said, do you know Narrow Gate. She responded, “That is my parent’s winery,” so again, the ranch brought back more connections 30 years later.
This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for FWT Magazine.