by Georgina Stassi
You know that warm, homey feeling when you enter a friend's house, take off your shoes, pour a glass of wine and peek in the refrigerator? That's exactly how we felt as we explored the Wine Coast Country Discovery Route to "SAVOR the Central Coast" at Santa Margarita Ranch, the Central Coast food and wine show sponsored by Sunset Magazine.
Leaving Los Angeles, my friend Adriana and I easily reached our destination within three hours - the Santa Margarita Ranch. Santa Margarita is a charming, cozy little farm town with the coolest feed store smack in the middle - something we horse people find irresistible. In September, the rolling golden hills, spotted with oak trees and warm breeze blowing through, could easily be mistaken for Tuscany.
Inside the festival, the fires are roaring, animals are smoking on spits, veggies are roasting, olive oil awaits fresh bread, and wine is readied to pour. I spot a chef's coat walking by and he starts to look like a roasted chicken, so I grab him and say, "we're starving - can you feed us?" And while one would expect at least a perplexed look, he says "I've got some ahi tartar tacos for you. Follow me." (Underneath all that arrogance, chefs are secretly co-dependents for food addicts.)
Underneath the Big White Tent of Hedonistic Pleasures: Not that I need to elaborate, but this was too good to not describe all of the salacious details. Inside the Big White Tent, you know that you have died and this is heaven. Every wine to be tried was crafted from the passion and dedication of the vintners of the Central Coast. The Central California olive oil is fragrant, buttery and fresh. The tangerine oil is crisp, the lemon oil is zesty, the citrus oil is fruity and floral - it is truly some of the liveliest oil I have ever experienced.
Cal Poly SLO had an impressive display from their creamery, viticulture program, olallieberry jam, chocolates, organic farming program, apiary program, and meat, poultry and egg production. Doc Burnsteins's Merlot Ice Cream proved to be an opiate made from fresh cream, merlot, chocolate and raspberries.
The Brown Butter Cookies of Cayucos called to me. They have created their own rich "sweet meets salty" sensations. These cookies are crunchy with a tender center, perfect for tea, coffee or dessert wine.
If you love artisan food, wine, agriculture and beautiful rolling hills, you have to come to SAVOR this year. This year's guided and adventure tours with Sunset's editors look intriguing. The Enchanted Evening at Hearst Castle and The Secret Tomato Garden with Sunset Garden Editor Julie Chai are both going to be intimate and unique events (Julie Chai, who I've had the pleasure of meeting on more than one occasion, is as interesting and knowledgeable as she is lovely. The Tomato Garden at Sycamore Resort in Avila is one of my favorite places to visit too and I can't wait until it opens). To see the entire list of tours and special events, visit http://www.savorcentralcoast.com/schedule-overview/adventure-tours/
By Georgina Stassi