Kelly Trom
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Grape grower and wine producer Rob Murray had a vision to bring together good wines, cuisines and local produce in one location. The result is Foremost Wine Co., one of the newest restaurants to hit Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Murray owns approximately 1,000 acres of vineyards in both Santa Maria and Paso Robles. With 7 percent of the total volume produced on his vineyards, he produces popular and local wine labels including Force of Nature and Tooth and Nail. The rest of the grapes are sold to local wine makers.

Not only does Murray know wine, he also knows produce. The restaurant uses vegetables and fruit grown at the organic farm at See Canyon Fruit Ranch. Foremost Wine Co. combines this love of the freshest food and wine with cuisine styles from around the world, general manager Johnny Kenny said.

“Rob comes from a farming family, and it was his idea to start a restaurant in San Luis Obispo that is a true farm-to-table concept,” Kenny said.

Murray uses his relationships with other wine producers and farmers on the Central Coast to make this concept a reality. Foremost Wine Co. meshes the familiar and fresh ingredients grown on local soil with the food palates from countries such as France, Spain, China and more.

“We are basically a co-op of wine growers, organic farmers, chefs, foodies and other people that have come together to create a concept that is unlike anything else around here,” Kenny said. “We also offer food, spices and different preparation styles, and wines that you would not normally taste.”

The menu and wine list were crafted together using the expertise and knowledge of wine director Robin Puricelli and executive chef Julie Simon.

The main goal was to pair the wines with the correct dishes to make both flavors stand out, as well as to put Old World wines next to a New World wine of the same varietal so that people can taste the differences.

“For example, Mike Sinor (of Sinor-LaVallee) makes a syrah, so we will have his by the glass and then we also have a Northern Rhone syrah on the menu,” Puricelli said. “We show the origin of the varietal made in a California local style.”

Not only does Foremost Wine Co. sell wines from around the world, it also sells local wines that aren’t as easily accessible for the average consumer.

“Rob, the owner, has a great relationship with some of the local wine makers so we have access to some of these really unique, hard-to-find wines that you can’t find at a tasting room or at a shop,” Puricelli said.

Foremost Wine Co. offers a few different ways to enjoy these wines. Those enjoying a meal in the restaurant can order by the glass or by the bottle. Wine enthusiasts can also stop by the wine shop to buy a wide variety of wines ranging from $10 to $100.

To help out, the company has hired several Cal poly wine and viticulture students to learn about the winemaking and chemistry process of the restaurant’s wines, as well as their aromas and characteristics.

“It is a great, young, eager crowd who are very passionate about food and wine,” Puricelli said. “It has been a really exciting, animated environment.”

Julie Simon spends much of her time seeking the freshest, local, in-season products for the menu.

The menu features many small plates (ranging from $8-24) to share, in addition to family-style options (ranging from $26-32) which are much larger. The restaurant also offers a mix of imported and local cheeses and charcuterie.

“My philosophy is to use the whole animal because that is the most respectful thing you can do once you harvest an animal,” Simon said. “If I want to buy some beef from Pete Cramer in San Luis Obispo, I know that I will never get enough steaks from him to put on the menu, but I know I can get enough cheeks and tongue.”

Simon uses this part of the cow to make one of her favorites on the current menu, a beef terrine with horseradish creme fraiche, apple and celery root.

“We keep the cuisine very eclectic; we are not married to anything in particular, so it is a really wide palate,” Simon said. “I think I would call it an ingredient-driven cuisine. We never over-manipulate our food. We let the ingredients shine through.”

The menu revolves around seasonal produce and changes monthly to ensure the food offered is fresh.

“It is going to be a little more adventurous,” Simon said. “We feel like we have a mission to revive the food scene in San Luis Obispo. We aren’t trying to do anything that has been done before.”

The Foremost Wine Co. is scheduled to open this Friday, Nov. 7, located at 570 Higuera St.