Take a guided tour

November 20, 2006 

If you’d rather leave the driving and details to someone else, check out these tour options. Tour companies usually offer a guide who can share knowledge of wine and the area, while limo rentals provide just a driver.

Central Coast Trolley Co. (800-992-9633) offers daily tours of Paso Robles wineries on its San Francisco-style trolleys. The tours, which cost $68-75, include pick-up from your hotel, stops at four to five wineries and catered lunch at one of the stops (tasting fees not included). The company also provides custom tours of wineries throughout the Central Coast as well as other destinations such as Hearst Castle.

The Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle (888-8WINERY) offers options including a daily shuttle to four wineries for $42, a daily picnic tour with visits to four wineries, tasting fees included, a gourmet picnic lunch and a private wine lesson for $78, and an evening wine and dine tour with visits to two wineries and dinner at Matthew’s at the Airport for $85.

The Wine Wrangler (866-238-6400) offers daily hotel pick-up, visits to four to six wineries, tasting fees included, and a vineyard picnic lunch for $78-$98, depending on pick-up location, as well as custom options.

Consider taking to two wheels instead of four -- pedal your way around the wineries with Central Coast Outdoors (888-873-5610, 805-528-1080). For $119 (plus $25 if you need to rent a bike) you’ll get a full day of cycling around some of the county’s most scenic roads, stops at several wineries, a gourmet picnic lunch and a van to stash your purchases or hop on if you get tired. Choose between trips through Edna Valley, starting in San Luis Obispo and exploring the wineries just south of town, with the craggy volcanic peaks of the Nine Sisters as a backdrop, and Paso’s Westside, with its rolling terrain and notable wineries.

If you’d rather spend a few hours biking in the morning then tour wineries by van in the afternoon, the company offers four options for $129 (plus $25 for bike rental). In the North County, one cycles through canyons northeast of Paso then visits the wineries of Eastside, the other pedals along the Pacific coast north of Cambria then visits Westside wineries. In the South County, one starts in SLO and heads out to Avila and Pismo beaches, then visits Edna Valley wineries, the other travels a lonely valley of farms, ranchland and vineyards then visits the wineries of Arroyo Grande and Edna valleys.

Limos: Breakaway Tours (800-799-7657), Elegant Image Limousine Service (805-772-5390), Stardust Cruises Limousine (805-938-0018) and Sultan’s Limousine Service (805-466-3167) are among the services offering custom, private transportation.

Another option is to ride the rails to wine country. Starting in Los Angeles, you can board the San Luis Obispo Daylight Wine Lover’s Train (800-KEY-RAIL) -- a private vintage railcar called the Overland Trail -- destined for SLO’s Amtrak station. The railcar is attached to regularly scheduled trains and departs monthly. During the journey, guests eat hors d’oeuvres and sip wines from a local winery. After arriving in San Luis Obispo, passengers are taken by vans to the Lamplighter Inn & Suites, where they spend two nights. Small group vans take visitors to wineries in the Edna and Arroyo Grande valleys near San Luis Obispo. On a recent trip, Wolff Vineyards was the featured on-board winery and guests visited Tolosa, Laetitia, Rancho Arroyo Grande and Cerro Caliente wineries. The trip costs $499 per person ($30 more in summer) including transportation, accommodations, wine tasting fees and some meals.

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