Dave Hickey, winemaker at Laetitia Vineyard and Winery, and Franco Lastreto, Tasting Room supervisor, display two of their latest Pinot Noir releases. Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The Wine & Food of San Luis Obispo

Like no other appellation in this country, the bond with wine and ocean is seamless and collaborative in the San Luis Obispo Wine Country.

In my last column I underlined the morning and afternoon fog that sweeps in from many of the pristine beaches that define the central coast.

Wineries in the know have chosen Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as their signature varietals. The weather conditions romance these two “Play Misty For Me” grapes.

All the wineries in this intimate wine country are no more than five miles from this marine cooling; some are less than one mile.

If you are coming up from Southern California to visit, go by Amtrak.  It hugs the coast and you will see breathtaking coastal sights that only a train can show you.

It drops you off in the middle of San Luis Obispo. Request an Enterprise rental car in advance, since they will pick you up at the station and drop you off when you’re ready to leave.

You will need a car to get around to the wineries, restaurants and a resort style hotel overlooking one of the beaches. The Inn at the Cove is a gem overlooking Pismo Beach with private beach access and 180-degree views of the ocean.

At least one of the nights in your stay will have to be at the Suite Edna, a converted 1908 farmhouse in the middle of historic Old Edna, an adventurous town site.

You’ll also find a gypsy wagon, a sippin’ cellar, bluebelly barn, a bordello and three lovely goats. Pattea Torrence if the “mayor” of Old Edna and will be happy to tell you more, by calling (805) 710-3701 or visit oldedna.com.

Be sure to stop by the on-site Sextant Winery next to Old Edna.

Established in 2004, it has a wide variety of old world wines. These are all-estate wines like Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Tannat from Spain and, of course, my favorite, the lovely Pinot Noir.  This release was a 2014 at $25 per bottle and well worth it.

Foremost Wine Co. in downtown San Luis Obsipo is a restaurant, lounge and wine shop.  The Miso Glazed Black Cod is shown with squash and grilled corn. Photo by Frank Mangio
Foremost Wine Co. in downtown San Luis Obsipo is a restaurant, lounge and wine shop. The Miso Glazed Black Cod is shown with squash and grilled corn. Photo by Frank Mangio


Dave Hickey knows every square foot of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery in nearby Arroyo Grande, about 10 miles south of San Luis Obispo.  He and his son, Eric Hickey, who is president of Laetitia, make the wines that have a decided Rhone, Burgundy and Bordeaux French fruit approach.  “Four hundred forty of our 625 acres are devoted to Pinot Noir and are highland vineyards,” said Hickey.  “We release Pinots with more age than most other wineries, so they have a drink-now quality.”

TASTE OF WINE featured the Laetitia Reserve du Domaine 2013 ($42) in its Top 10 Tastings a few months ago.  Check out our end-of-the-year report coming up the end of this month.  More on Laetitia wines at laetitiawine.com.

A winery to discover is Tolosa, a large, sweeping vista vineyard just south of San Luis Obispo’s airport in the Edna Valley.  Tolosa is named after the Franciscan Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa that grew wine grapes in the 18th century, and still stands today.  Those Pacific coastal winds make this the coldest appellation in California and reminiscent of Burgundy in France.  It is a prime environment for Pinot Noir. The Tolosa Pinot to search for is “1772,” ($60) the year the mission was built.

This 2014 release is a blend of four different blocks, aged 11 months in French Oak barrels. It has a rich, black cherry mouthfeel, with refined tannins.  See more at tolosawinery.com.

Before leaving SLO Country, I want to focus on a restaurant, lounge and wine shop, and all under one roof, in the downtown district that will need no introduction once you try it. Foremost Wine Co. and its menu offerings are thoughtfully sourced from all local ingredients, and constantly changes monthly.

A novel “Burrata Bar” is a great way to start, with Gorgonzola cheese and Heirloom Tomato.

On the night of the visit, entrees included:  grilled hanger steak, pesto farro risotto, duck breast, chile shrimp and my favorite, the glazed black cod with grilled squash and corn.

The chef is the celebrated Julie Simon who was raised in Paris and has traveled the world studying the emotional response of food that is deep in flavor.  She enjoys making what she calls “comfort food.”

Get more at foremostwineco.com.


Wine Bytes

Now that I have included Laetitia wines and Foremost Wine Co., the two will collaborate on a very special event Dec. 29 at 6 p.m. in downtown San Luis Obispo.  Laetitia winemaker Eric Hickey and Chef Julie Simon combine talents for a portfolio of wines and menu items.  Cost is $85.  Contact the restaurant at (805) 481-1772.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos will unveil their Top 10 list of wines both Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 from 3 to 9 p.m. Taste all 10 for just $20. Just come by, no RSVP needed.  For details call (760) 653-9032.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has its special cellar selections spotlighted Dec. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m.  Lineup includes selections from California and France.  RSVP at (760) 479-2500.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.  Follow him on Facebook.