Imagine being able to taste up to 170 different wines by the glass, including some difficult-to-find wines like Santa Barbara’s Sea Smoke pinot noir and Napa’s Silver Oak cabernet sauvignon. If even possible, you might expect such a tasting place to be in Napa Valley or San Francisco, or even New York City. But such an experience exists in Pismo Beach.
Tastes of the Valleys, a wine bar that opened three and a half years ago in Solvang, has just opened a second location right on Price Street. Across from Bob’s True Value hardware store and next to Giuseppi’s restaurant, Tastes is a most unexpected find in this beach community. Owner Ash Mehta says the sales and the customers have already exceeded his expectations.
“I thought that this was going to be an area where the average bottle price sold would be less than Solvang, that the average ticket was going to be less,” Mehta explained, “but no, just the opposite.”
Mehta’s business model is unique: “Any wine in the house, by the glass.”
It sounds simple, but by offering more than 170 different bottles of wines by more than 65 wineries, that means a lot of open bottles, and a lot of possible spoilage.
That’s where advanced technology right out of Silicon Valley comes in. A state-of-the-art preservation system — similar to those used in other tasting rooms, but more advanced — makes it possible. The unique modular system can keep an open bottle fresh for up to 90 days, though Mehta said the shop has never had to keep a wine for more than a few weeks.
Tastes offers wines from every growing region up and down the California coast, including Napa, Sonoma and Alexander Valley. They offer many from the Central Coast, including many from Santa Barbara, and a growing list from nearby Paso Robles and Edna Valley.
Prices range from $6 a glass for a Russian River chardonnay to $35 or more for that Silver Oak cabernet. The shop also features special events each week with discounts on per-glass prices, and every wine is also offered at a bottle price, either to drink at the tasting room or take home.
“Our take-home pricing is almost always lower than the winery itself for most of our wines,” Mehta said. Passing his own costs along to his customers, he explained, “We price our glasses not by what the bottle sells for, but what we pay for it.”
Some of the tasting room’s most popular wines are Au Bon Climat, Cass, Margerum, Hoppe and L’Aventure, all from the Central Coast. But he emphasized that the wine list changes weekly and new wines are always coming in.
Mehta and his wife, Lissa Hallberg, operate the tasting room seven days a week, sharing their own knowledge of the wines and the local growing areas. And while they have partners in the Solvang location, in Pismo Beach they are the sole proprietors.
Asked how he acquired his knowledge about wines and his refined palate Mehta offered a simple answer: “By drinking. Isn’t that how everybody gets it?”
Tastes of the Valleys
Address: 911 Price St., Pismo Beach, 773-8466
Owners: Ash Mehta and Lissa Hallberg
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Janis Switzer can be reached at 434-5394 or via e-mail at email@example.com.