Food & Drink

Wine Notes: An ‘authentic California experience’

The gardens are starting to take shape at the Santa Margarita Ranch in preperation for the Savor the Central Coast event that is being held there in September.
Photo by Joe Johnston  07-23-10
The gardens are starting to take shape at the Santa Margarita Ranch in preperation for the Savor the Central Coast event that is being held there in September. Photo by Joe Johnston 07-23-10 Tribune

When editors at Sunset magazine started tossing the idea around for a new California culinary and wine event, they considered Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, even Pebble Beach. But they kept coming to the conclusion that those regions just weren’t the right fit.

When Steve Burns asked the simple question, “So what do you think about the Central Coast,” the light went on.

“We wanted it to be driven by wine, even more than food,” explained Sunset wine editor Sara Schneider, “but we wanted upscale in a down-to-earth way.”

The Central Coast fit the vision perfectly, and thus began the development of Savor the Central Coast, a first-time wine and food event at Santa Margarita Ranch from Sept. 30 through Oct. 3.

The event is expected to attract up to 8,000 attendees. Close to 200 wineries are participating, along with 35 local chefs and a wide range of Central Coast businesses.

So far, more than 60 sponsors have donated more than $375,000 in sponsorship money, more than twice the expected goal.

“To be honest, I think that none of us thought we would have this kind of sponsorship the first year,” Burns said. “It’s beyond our expectations already.”

Burns, a marketing consultant from Sonoma, had been working with the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau when he first approached Sunset. He has stayed involved in promoting the event with executive director John Summer. For Summer, the goals are simple and ambitious at the same time.

“The goal with this event is to put us on the map as a true first-class destination,” he explained. “Once people come up here and experience our county in a way that they never thought about before, they will want to come back and come back again.”

As events on the Central Coast go, this event is expected to set a new standard for the size, quality and diversity of activities included over one weekend.

The main event at Santa Margarita Ranch includes wine and food tasting, cooking demonstrations, a 2-acre sustainable garden and a 20,000-square-foot Cirque du Soleil-type pavilion that showcases attractions of the Central Coast from Ventura to Monterey. Off-site activities include nine winemaker dinners, seven culinary tours to destinations such as an abalone farm and an olive oil producer, and three harvest tours to local wineries.

In terms of size, the main event covers five acres.

A fireworks finale and live concert by performer Chris Isaak will conclude the weekend in Avila Beach. Celebrity chef Tyler Florence is part of the mix.

Summer reports that hotels for that weekend are already starting to fill up in what is a normally slow time of the season.

What is even better news for hoteliers and restaurants is that this is expected to be an annual event; plans for the 2011 Savor event are already under way.

Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, believes the event will have lasting implications for the area.

“The reach of Sunset magazine brings great acclaim to San Luis Obispo County, which will have a long-term impact for the region,” Jacob said. She describes the county and this event as “the ideal authentic California experience.”

Savor the central coast

Sunset magazine’s Savor the Central Coast is scheduled for Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 and will take place at the Santa Margarita Ranch and locations throughout San Luis Obispo County.

General admission prices for the main event are $85 per person per day or $150 for a two-day pass. The same activities will be both Saturday and Sunday. Special ticket prices for county residents remain available for $75 each. Tickets for tours and winemaker dinners are sold separately. For information on all the event details and to purchase tickets, go to, or call 541-8000 or 800-634-1414.

Janis Switzer can be reached at 434-5394 or via e-mail at