Restaurant News & Reviews

14 can’t-miss festivals for wine, beer and cider lovers in SLO County

Stacie Smith, left, and Jennifer Hinckley of Los Angeles empty their glasses of wine at the Grand Tasting in Downtown City Park in Paso Robles as part of the Paso Robles Wine Festival in 2015. The festival returns to Paso Robles in May 2017.
Stacie Smith, left, and Jennifer Hinckley of Los Angeles empty their glasses of wine at the Grand Tasting in Downtown City Park in Paso Robles as part of the Paso Robles Wine Festival in 2015. The festival returns to Paso Robles in May 2017.

Summer festival season is around the corner. In San Luis Obispo County that means celebrating the area’s wonderful wines, craft beers and ciders.

The season’s many festivals are a great way to sample local goods and meet the people who produce them while enjoying summer sunshine and great tunes. (They’re also an opportunity to stock up on drinkware, as many events include a commemorative glass with admission.)

Here’s a guide to some of the fun events in store. Party on.

(A note: With the exception of the Templeton Wine Festival, events are 21 and older. Most offer discounted tickets for non-drinkers and designated drivers.)

Brew at the Zoo

5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday

Charles Paddock Zoo, 9100 Morro Road, Atascadero

It’s grown-up day at the zoo with this event, returning for a third year. Sample craft beer, cider and wine while you party with the animals, sing karaoke and dance to music. Tickets cost $30 to $35 and food is available for purchase.

Information: 805-461-5080 or

Templeton Wine Festival

1 to 5 p.m., May 6

Templeton Park, 550 Crocker St.

Sip, sample, shop and dance under the shady oaks. Check out booths featuring more than 30 wineries and a dozen-plus boutiques while snacking on specialty foods, or find a shady spot to sit and listen to the soulful tunes of Joy Bonner. Admission is $35 to $45.

Information: 805-434-1789 or

Central Coast Cider Festival

5 to 8 p.m. May 13

Pavilion on the Lake, 9315 Pismo Ave., Atascadero

This celebration of the area’s surging cider scene returns for a second year with pours from 13 cider houses, an English pig roast dinner and music by Erin and the Earthquakes. Tickets cost $55 to $65.

Information: 805-591-3060 or

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Paso Robles Wine Festival

Various times, May 18 to 21

Various locations, Paso Robles

Now in its 35th year, the festival will feature more than 70 wineries, plus food and artisan merchants, at its Grand Tasting on May 20 at Downtown City Park in Paso Robles.

Also in store for the ultimate celebration of Paso Robles wine country are four days of winemaker dinners, open houses, seminars, tours and more. Admission to the Grand Tasting costs $70 to $145. Other events range from free to $125.

More info: 805-239-8463 or

California Festival of Beers

Noon to 5 p.m., May 27

Madonna Inn Meadows, 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo

The region’s oldest and largest beer festival has been raising mugs as well as money for Hospice of San Luis Obispo County for 30 years. Sample brews from California and beyond while boogeying to bands, hitting up food trucks and playing lawn games. Tickets cost $60 to $80.

Information: 805-544-2266 or

Wine, Waves and Beyond

Various times, June 2 to 4

Various locations, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo

Wine and surf culture come together at this 8-year-old fundraiser, benefiting Glean SLO and Still Frothy.

The fun kicks off June 2 with a screening of “Under an Arctic Sky” by surf photographer Chris Burkard at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

On June 3, Barrel to Barrel at The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach features 40 wineries and breweries, local bites and live music. The festival wraps up June 4 with a surf contest, vintage car show and beach party. Admission costs $20 to $85, with some free events.

Information: 805-556-3306 or

Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest

Noon to 5 p.m., June 3

Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles

Considered one of the country’s best beer fests, the 6-year-old Invitational brings 50 top brewers from around the world for an epic afternoon of tasting. Tickets cost $90 to $200 but are sold out, so if you come across one, snag it fast.

Information: 805-225-5911 or

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Paso Pinot and Paella Festival

2 to 5 p.m., June 4

Templeton Park

Paellas in huge pans brimming with seafood, meat, veggies and rice from top local chefs pair deliciously with Paso Robles’ spice-laden pinot noirs. Sample as many as you can and vote for the People’s Choice winner, then groove to world music band Incendio. The festival benefits local youth performing arts groups. Admission is $75.

Information: 805-239-2565 or

Festival of Albariño

Various times, June 16-17

Various locations, Paso Robles

Returning for a second year, this celebration of the aromatic white varietal kicks off with an albariño-pairing dinner at Brecon Estate. On June 17, start with an educational panel and tasting at Derby Wine Estates, then head over to Broken Earth Winery for a walkabout tasting of more than 30 local producers. Tickets cost $35 to $135.

Information: 805-239-2200 or

Roll Out the Barrels

Various times, June 22-24

Various locations, San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo wine country takes center stage with Barrels in the Plaza, June 22 at Mission Plaza. The event features local wines and winemakers along with tasty bites from local chefs and the infectious sounds of Bear Market Riot.

Then trek through Edna Valley for special tastings, pairings, music and more June 23 and 24. Admission to Barrels in the Plaza is $30 to $60; an eight-stop passport costs $75.

Information: 805-541-5868 or

Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival

Various times, June 23-25

Various locations, Atascadero

Support the Charles Paddock Zoo while sampling local wines plus a few beers and ciders at the main event June 24 at the zoo and the adjacent Atascadero Lake Park. Also in store are a Mayor’s Winemaker Dinner on June 23 at the park and a June 24 golf tournament at Chalk Mountain Golf Course. Free tastings are available June 25 at several participating wineries. Tickets cost $60 to $75.

Information: 805-466-2044 to

Bacon & Barrels Festival

1 to 5 p.m. July 14-16

Madonna Inn Meadows

This celebration of pork and barrel-made beverages from beer and bourbon to wine and whiskey returns for a second year with samples, chef and mixologist demos, music and games. Tickets cost $60 to $100. Spring for the $325 VIP package for access to a kickoff dinner and a bloody mary brunch.

Information: 805-996-0652 to

Paso Robles Winemakers’ Cookoff

6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 12

Paso Robles Event Center

In a 19-year tradition, local winemakers don their chef hats to see who can cook the best grub at a fun evening filled with bribery, crazy costumes and general merriment. Put on by the Paso Robles Rotary Club, the event raises about $30,000 for college scholarships each year. Admission is $85.

Information: 805-238-9607 or

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Central Coast Wine Classic

Various times, Aug. 25-27

Various locations, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande

Revel in the refined world of rare and fine wines at the 32nd annual Wine Classic as founder Archie McLaren celebrates his 75th birthday. Bid on exclusive and large-format wines as well as luxury goods and services while surrounded by exotic sports cars at an auction on Aug. 26. Round out the weekend with gourmet vintner dinners and a caviar brunch. Tickets cost $75 to $175.

Information: 805-544-1285 to

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Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at or on Twitter @sallybuffalo.

More festival fun

This story is the first in a series about San Luis Obispo County’s wine, beer, spirits and cider festivals. Check back in early fall for another festival roundup. Visit for information on more events.