Wine & Beer

3 upcoming festivals let you taste world-class wine without leaving the Central Coast

There are wine festivals to celebrate harvest, to revel in all the wines produced around San Luis Obispo County and to explore its various wine regions.

But three upcoming events focus on specific wines, giving serious and casual wine drinkers the chance to delve in and taste hundreds of examples over the course of a weekend.

For the two international events, at least, it’s something you’d need multiple plane tickets, plenty of cash for tasting fees and a several weeks of travel to replicate.

World of Pinot Noir

March 2-3,

Many people say San Luis Obispo County produces world-class pinot noir, and this event is your chance to taste for yourself: Two dozen wineries around the county will pour their pinots alongside top producers from Burgundy, Oregon and other singular spots around California and abroad.

For pinotphiles as well as the pinot-curious, it’s an unparalleled chance to explore hundreds of examples of the expressive grape from around the world right in your backyard, with two grand tastings, expert-led seminars, parties and paired meals.

The event has moved down the road to Santa Barbara but retains its SLO County roots.

It was started by winemakers from both counties 18 years ago, long before the “Sideways” boom, held in Shell Beach until it grew too large a few years ago, and today is led by Coby Parker-Garcia, winemaker at Claiborne & Churchill Vintners and El Lugar Wines.

With tastings organized by region, attendees can dive in and understand where the grapes are from, Parker-Garcia said, but also get up close and personal with the producers.

“The people pouring are typically the owner or winemaker, people with their thumbprint on the wine,” he said.

A3 Zin Festival_2
At the J Dusi Wines tasting room in Templeton, Jaime Christensen serves zinfandel to Katrina Dodson, center, and Carla Anderson, right, both of San Diego, during the Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend in 2015. Zinfandel Weekend runs March 16 through 18 in Paso Robles. Laura Dickinson

Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend

March 16-18,

Choose your own zinful adventure to celebrate Paso Robles’ heritage grape variety, which dates back to the 1880s here and sparked the state’s first wine boom.

More than 100 wineries host events over the three-day weekend, with plenty of barrel tasting, barbecuing and boogying down to live music to fill out your itinerary.

Or seek out more unique celebrations: a spaghetti dinner and Western movie night at August Ridge Winery, painting a T-shirt at Alta Colina or your pet at Dark Star Cellars, a tasting room turned Irish pub at Harmony Cellars.

Start the weekend by getting your geek on at the Friday evening Zinposium, with a panel discussion and guided tasting, then letting your hair down at the Z After Party, with dessert, music and tastings from 20 area zin producers.

Hospice du Rhône

April 26-28,

Get ready to Rhône: It may seem a ways away, but weekend passes for this international event are already sold out (eight weeks earlier than normal), so it’s a good idea to snag tickets for the individual events now.

International tastings, seminars and Rhône Around dinners celebrate the 22 varietals originating from southeast France, the syrahs, grenaches, roussanes and more that a dedicated community of SLO County producers have embraced with passion and acclaim.

Sessions will explore South Africa, Australia, California and the Rhône Valley itself, with meals featuring the cuisines of the regions.

After 15 years in Paso Robles, the San Luis Obispo-based event decamped for Tennessee in 2013, but returned a couple years ago with a new biannual Paso edition that’s billed as the largest gathering of Rhône variety-wines on the planet.

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at

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