I had a memorable day recently taking a short country drive from Pismo Beach, California to the wine country of Edna Valley. It was one of these beautiful summer mornings where the fog burned off early and the day was bright and full of possibilities.
I wanted to visit a new small producing winery in Edna Valley. I started out from a new Pismo Beach coffee shop, Orange Cat Café on Cypress Street, and headed northeast of Pismo on Price Canyon Road. It’s all of a five-mile drive from the beach to Edna Valley along this picturesque country road.
This particular morning I caught a glimpse of the Amtrak train heading south as it meandered through the valley and through the narrow pass into Pismo on its way to San Diego. It could have been a postcard view with the thickly wooded backdrop with a 12 car train whisking by.
A couple of miles further down the road I came to the signal at Edna Road. I turned left toward San Luis Obispo. If I had gone right I would be very close to Claiborne and Churchill’s straw bale winery or a bit further, on Corbett Canyon Road, I could taste some Kynsi Pinot Noir. By turning left I passed through the tiny burg of Edna and Sextant Winery’s funky and friendly tasting room. A mile or so further is the turn off on Biddle Ranch Road towards the dramatic Edna Valley Vineyards winery and another handful of wineries on nearby Orcutt Road.
As you drive toward San Luis Obispo the road climbs up over the railroad tracks where the view of the large 600+ acre Paragon Vineyard stretches across Edna Valley. This was the first large vineyard in the area and planted by the Niven family in 1973. Along with Chamisal Vineyard, planted by Norman Goss at about the same time, this was the first large-scale commercial grape growing in the area since the mission days.
The wines have come along way since the Spanish Padres planted their thick-skinned, musket ball sized, “Mission” variety grape. Now Edna Valley and nearby Arroyo Grande Valley have over 3000 acres of vines and over a dozen wineries producing first class award winning wines. The price wineries pay for these grapes are some of the highest in the state.
At the intersection and stoplight at Los Ranchos Road I spotted the sign for my destination. Turning into the gravel driveway I headed into the vineyards and towards the small, 900 case winery, of Autry Cellars. We met some wine loving friends and enjoyed tasting though some richly flavored reds, including Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. We bought a bottle and shared it on the deck taking in the peaceful beauty of Edna Valley, and told ourselves we needed more days like this one.