Pismo to Carmel: One Taste at a Time
Join us as we travel from Pismo Beach to Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting good food, wines and stopping at sights along the scenic coast!
Part 3: San Simeon, PCH and The Village Corner
For some unknown reason – and the fact that we were still close to our hotel, we decided to make one last stop for the day: Barton Family Estate, Home of Grey Wolf Cellars. I’ll apologize now for not remembering the wines we tasted. Part of that lapse is from an over-taste of red wine that day. Although I will say the name intrigued me and is part of the reason we stopped, the person doing the taste for us seemed like she couldn’t wait until her shift was over (It was a Sunday and we stopped toward the end of the day, so I can forgive her…). The tasting – three whites and three reds – was short, not much info was shared and the wines were not really all that distinguished.
There are plenty of great places to stay in the Paso Robles area and lots of dinner venues as well. And that was a good thing, because my taste buds were struggling and it was time for a shower and dinner, so we headed back to the Hampton Inn. Dinner was had at a nearby Mexican restaurant, where we also planned the next day’s agenda, an agenda that was supposed to include a trip to the J. Lohr Winery – a stop we had definitely planned to make!
Fate would have us head west to the coast instead and we ultimately ended up driving the final 90 or so miles back to Carmel along the Coast Highway, a beautiful and scenic route. Although we did not get to visit J. Lohr, we drove through the quaint little town of Cambria and, since we were a tad too early for a tasting at the local winery there (Moonstone Cellars), we intersected with and followed the coast highway north, stopping at a seaside eatery in San Simeon – actually on Manhattan Ave, along the ocean front – called Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for a mid-morning snack and a discussion of our itinerary… Sitting on a patio with a front-row-seat view of the Pacific Ocean, we enjoyed a special of the day: Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Quesadilla, with …… M-m-m-m-m! And of course, it was accompanied by a chilled glass of – what else – J. Lohr! (If I couldn’t get to the winery, this was the next best thing!)
Afterwards, we continued north, with stops at San Simeon’s Hearst Castle, the Hearst Ranch Winery and Tasting Room (not an impressive stop, but interesting) and an incredible Elephant Seal viewing area at the Peidras Blancas Rookery along the coast that provided some “National Geographic-like” photos and a chance to just listen to the roar of the ocean. The Pacific Coast Highway -- sometimes referred to simply as PCH -- is probably a trip worth doing at least once in one’s life; it is as scenic as any road I have driven. But a safe top speed is only about 30-35 mph – unless you are daring – and I unfortunately had little opportunity to rubber-neck at the incredible scenery.
We arrived in Carmel at around 3:30 pm – just in time for a bit of shopping and the get cleaned up for dinner. It had been a long time since we had the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite all-time venues: Mission Ranch. Their Bleu Cheese-topped burger is likely one of the best I have had anywhere; this evening’s version was no exception! Dinner was followed by an early-to-bed call. The day’s events had been many, and tomorrow’s plan required a full night’s rest.
We knew that our remaining time was quickly diminishing and we wanted to return to one last winery and tasting while we were here in Carmel; the location was about a twenty-minute drive west – out in Carmel Valley. We literally stumbled upon Joullian Vineyards almost ten years ago, and have never regretted that incidental stop. It was literally the first time that I truly enjoyed every single one of the wines that we tasted – both whites and reds. And we now returned to Joullian, not only to sample but to re-join their wine club.
Today’s visit and tasting brought back fond memories… Our tastings included the 2013 Roger Rose Chardonnay (a crisp, clean and oaky wine with a smooth, buttery feel on the palate), a 2013 Highland Chardonnay (with a hint of Granny Smith apple, green pear, and a hazelnut nose and includes a bright a crisp, long vanilla and mineral finish), an excellent 2012 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, an awesome and earthy Retro Rouge NV that was big on tannins and flavors of black cherry with a hint of smoke, an incredible 2012 Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon that was loaded with dark berries and a slight cedar nose with a long finish. Wow – I love Joullian wines and was looking forward to a dinner that included a bottle of the Cabernet that we purchased just for that occasion!
Only two things remained for us to do, prior to our heading back to a chilly Mid-West Spring… One was a dinner at the Baja Cantina. This unfortunately was a bit of a disappointment and nothing even close to the quality of our last visit; sorry, but no review will be written. The other was a reunion of sorts, with my sister and brother-in-law and my cousin (now living in CA). We all had some catching up to do and agreed upon a return to another of my favorite places in Carmel: The Village Corner.
Located on the corner of Delores and 6th Ave. in Carmel by the Sea, it is an awesome place for just about any meal, although we generally visit just for breakfast. Today was definitely a breakfast kind of day. The sun had finally broken through the clouds and fog and we toasted our reunion with a glass of champagne. You can read my review here, but suffice it to say that our breakfast was – as it always has been – absolutely perfect! And so, by the way, was the service.
Saying goodbyes – especially to Patti & Bob, cousin Jodie, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the west coast – is never easy. But at some point, it must be done. And so, without fanfare, we did. We returned our rental car, passed through security at Mineta and headed home once again.
The good news? Shortly after arriving back home, we received the wine we had ordered from Joullian while we were out in Carmel Valley. We quickly added one of the bottles to the refrigerator and, the very next day, toasted a successful trip with some tasty Chardonnay.
Having sampled many new and different wines from the Central Coast region, and having re-joined the Joullian Wine Club, it will now be much easier to remember a great trip to the west. I hope you have enjoyed the journey, and I hope you have enjoyed the tasting. Until the next time, and in the words of my ancestors: skol!