Wine & Beer

Tired of tasting rooms? Try these unique wine-country experiences in SLO County instead

Courtesy and Tribune photos

With its award-winning wineries, breweries, cider houses and distilleries, San Luis Obispo County offers plenty of ways to enjoy a weekend. But sometimes, you can lounge around tasting rooms for only so long.

So, kick your wine-country escape up a notch with a hands-on, personalized experiences that will fire up your imagination, tantalize your taste buds and get your heart pounding.

Here are a few activities that pair perfectly with adventures in wine country, each with its own special souvenir.

Art Bar_Ceramics class overview
The Station, a wine shop and tasting room in San Luis Obispo, offers several arts and crafts workshops through its Art Bar program. Laura Dickinson

Get your craft on

Let loose your creative side at The Station in San Luis Obispo, a wine shop and tasting lounge that’s transformed into a full-on art studio a couple times a week.

The converted gas station brings in professional artists to lead its Art Bar sessions, coordinated by local artist Adriana Lemus.

In addition to watercolor and acrylic painting, Lemus and her crew have expanded the offerings to include hand lettering, driftwood wall hangings and figure drawing. (Some sessions feature live models.)

At ceramic workshops, you can shape and texture clay into mugs, bowls and succulent planters.

The glass of wine, beer or cider you’re offered as you arrive helps smooth any inhibitions about your artistic ability and get the creative juices flowing. After some instruction on the day’s project, simply paint, sculpt and create away with the knowledge that you’ll have a one-of-a-kind piece to proudly display back home.

Details: Held in the afternoon and evening, Art Bar sessions last 2 to 2.5 hours and cost $40 to $65. The Station, 311 Higuera St. San Luis Obispo. 805-706-0711 or

Other options: Wineries often host sip ‘n’ paint events so keep an eye out for announcements. San Luis Obispo-based Paint Party runs many of them, with dates listed on its Facebook page. Autry Cellars in San Luis Obispo holds one the second Sunday of each month.

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Fromagerie Sophie, a European-style cheese shop in San Luis Obispo, offers a passport program for folks interested in exploring new flavors. Joe Johnston

Say cheese

Take a journey around the world without leaving town. But don’t forget your passport — at least not the one from Fromagerie Sophie in San Luis Obispo, an invaluable guide to the creamy, crumbly, pungent province of all things cheese.

A stop in Sophie Boban-Doering’s downtown shop can be a dizzying experience, with up to 80 selections from across Europe.

Where to start? Let the passport be your guide, with detailed descriptions, maps showing each cheese’s origin and room for your tasting notes. Sample a few and earn a stamp for each cheese purchased; fill the passport to earn a reward.

Bonus: Tell Boban-Doering or her small staff what wineries you’re headed to or what bottle you just bought, and they’ll match you up with the optimal fromage.

Details: There’s no charge to participate in the passport program, though purchase is required to earn stamps. Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday to Monday. Fromagerie Sophie, 1129 Garden St., San Luis Obispo. 805-503-0805 or

Other options: Up in Paso Robles? Stop at Vivant Fine Cheese, where you can browse an extensive selection of dairy delights including the house honey chevre. Enjoy a quick lunch from a menu offering sandwiches and salads or grab a cheese plate to go for a wine-country picnic.

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Zip Over Vines - Credit Chris Leschinsky
Margarita Adventures in Santa Margarita makes an appearance on new Netflix show “Stay Here.” Chris Leschinsky Margarita Adventures

Get a bird’s eye view

Soar over wine country on a series of six rip-roaring ziplines with Margarita Adventures, located off Highway 101 in Santa Margarita. Race a buddy across the epic Double Barrel tandem line, brave a 300-foot suspension bridge or glide like a hawk over the vines on the Pinot Express — all while the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.

You can relive the experience at home with Go-Pro footage of your mid-air escapades

For a zip-and-sip combo, end your adventure by tasting the wines from the vines you just flew over at Ancient Peaks Winery, right across the road from the tour office in Santa Margarita.

Not feeling the need for speed? Hop on a vintage Humvee for a tour of the rich wildlife at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, which is home to majestic eagles, gentle deer, wild boar and more. Or opt for a peaceful paddle around scenic and secluded Santa Margarita Lake on a four-hour guided kayak trip.

MA Kayak Tours
Vistors can explore Santa Margarita Lake on a four-hour guided kayak tour offered by Margarita Adventures in Santa Margarita. Margarita Adventures

Details: Zipline tours, which last 2.5 to 3 hours, start at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday; 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday. $79 to $119. Margarita Adventures, 22720 El Camino Real, Santa Margarita. 805-438-3120 or

Other options: Sticking around the Edna Valley? Check out Vista Lago Adventure Park at Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, which boasts a challenging ropes course and three ziplines. Tackle the Talley Wine Barrel Bridge, then hit up Talley Vineyards as you head back into town. 805-710-7970 or

Cook up something tasty

Few activities embody wine-country life as much as whipping up a gourmet meal while sipping on a glass of wine and gazing out at an oak-studded landscape.

Brigit Binns, who’s authored cookbooks for Williams-Sonoma and Sunset magazine can teach you the chef-level tips and tricks to pull off those delectable dishes with panache.

Step into the welcoming, well-appointed space at Refugio Kitchen in Paso Robles, where you’ll be greeted with a glass of wine and intimate instruction in the culinary arts. You’ll join a small group of foodies ranging from kitchen newbies to accomplished chefs and try your hand at dishes that put ambitious cookery within easy reach.

Classes cover everything from meat mastery and mad brunch skills to the art of artisan pizza. (There’s even a weekend-long workshop on wood-fired cooking.) Each class features plenty of noshing paired with limited-production local wines, plus recipes to take home.

Details: Classes cost $105 to $130. Refugio Kitchen, Barley Grain Road, Paso Robles.

Other options: FARMstead Ed holds pop-up events and workshops on making everything from cheese, sausage and garden cocktails to infusions, soap and spa products. 805-226-2081 or The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, off Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, offers a Chumash Kitchen series, with hands-on classes in using wild native foods and seasonal local produce in traditional and modern recipes. 805-541-1400 or

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Brigit Binns and husband Casey Biggs talk to students at the start of an artisan pizza cooking class, offered through Binns’ Refugio Kitchen program in Paso Robles. David Middlecamp

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John Strube stretches out pizza dough as Teresa Strube observes during an artisan pizza cooking class at Brigit Binns’ Refugio Kitchen in Paso Robles. David Middlecamp