Outdoor adventure, authentic wineries, and enticing craft beer… what more could you ask for? The Central Coast of California has more than just gorgeous beaches; it’s also an ideal spot for beer and wine tasting in some of California’s quirkiest small towns.
Last month, we sipped on cold beers and tasted a mix of fine wines along California’s Hwy 1 Discovery Route. This area is located in San Luis Obispo County — about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco — and it consists of ten small towns near the coast. We’ve put together a suggested itinerary for wine and craft beer lovers, which includes all ten of these locations.
California Central Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Both horses and golf carts are welcomed in Nipomo, which is the southernmost stop along this route. Nipomo means “the foot of the hills” and is known for its gorgeous sand dunes, lush golf courses, and acres of farms with blooming flowers.
Laetitia Vineyard & Winery produces distinctive wines on a gorgeous property with ocean views. Make sure to try their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Beer lovers will want to make a stop at Santa Maria Brewing Company, which for twenty years has been the best little brewery nobody knew about.
Where to stay in Nipomo: Kaleidoscope Inn & Gardens
Arroyo Grande Valley
Just a little bit north of Nipomo lies a small agricultural town with a European feel. With average temps in the 70s, even in winter, Arroyo Grande Valley is a great year-round vacation destination. Talley Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery that produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ideally suited for the climate and soils of this valley.
A visit to Edna Valley can feel like you’ve been transported to Tuscany and with miles of wineries, it’s tough to pick just one to visit. Autry Cellars — one of the tiniest wineries on the central coast — produces wine with carefully-selected grapes from Edna Valley and Paso Robles. A stop here is a must if you are looking for a unique wine that can only be found at a small number of restaurants and tasting rooms.
From Edna Valley, head towards the coast to the historic beach town of Oceano. For a large selection of tastings from the area, I suggest a visit to ManRock Brewing Company for microbrews and Tastes of the Valleys for a selection of over 500 wines.
With a population under 1,000 people and steep streets lined with houses, this small beach town feels like a miniature San Francisco. It’s also home to one of the few remaining nude beaches in California. I recommend spending a few hours (at least) on the Avila Wine Trail and pick between the nine wineries and cellars that dot this sunny coastline.
Los Osos is the gateway to Montana de Oro State Park and is a nature lovers paradise. Beer enthusiasts can enjoy a wide selection of craft beer on tap at Baywood Ale House and those looking for fermented grapes should visit Stax Wine Bar & Bistro.
We wrote a little about our impressions of Cayucos in our Central Coast Travel Guide, but for wine tasting, Cayucos Cellars is open daily from 11:30am to 5:30pm (except Tuesdays). This family-owned small winery is actually on a working ranch in the hills above Cayucos, but they have a convenient tasting room in downtown.
A member of our Facebook community suggested we stop at Brown Butter Cookie Company and I’m so thankful she did! Their cookies are now in the running for our “Best Cookies We’ve Ever Had” award. Tip: These cookies taste even better after a drink.
We adore the tiny town of Cambria and its beaches. There seems to be a wine tasting room around every corner, so it’s tough to pick just one or two to visit. We really enjoyed our time at Stolo Family Winery — the farmhouse dates back to the late 1800s — and we stopped for a quick tasting at Cambria Beer Company.
You may know San Simeon from the famous Hearst Castle, but did you know there is also a Hearst Ranch Winery? This tasting room offers vintages of Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Late Harvest Zinfandel and Red Cuvée — to name a few.
While you’re in San Simeon, I highly recommend stopping to view the Elephant Seals!
Ragged Point is the northernmost stop on this route. It may be tiny, but it’s one of our favorite stops along this coast — for its stunning views above 400-foot cliffs and our favorite brunch stop before we head into Big Sur. Ragged Point Inn has a wine bar on site that serves local Paso Robles and Edna Valley favorites like Eberle, Calcareous, Baileyana and J. Lohr.