Brennan Angel

By the time the weekend rolls around, a bit of relaxation and stress relief is needed. It’s time to forget responsibility and make a toast to the wonderful wine and beer in San Luis Obispo County. A day of tasting can cure the worries of the week, but the question is: where to go?

The climate conditions in San Luis Obispo are ideal for vineyards. Los Osos channels cool pacific breezes straight to the mouth of Edna Valley, bringing frequent fog and a remarkably mild climate that gives the region one of the longest growing seasons in California.

Baileyana, located in the heart of Edna Valley, finds these conditions particularly ideal for growing its concentrated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and cooler climate Syrah.

Baileyana Winery was founded over 20 years ago by Catharine Niven, and her mantra continues to inspire those who are there now: “Be the best you can be in whatever you pursue.”

The vineyard is divided into 13 blocks, devoted to Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay. Seven different clones of Pinot Noir and four of Chardonnay, all on a variety of rootstocks, were selected for their ripening patterns, bunch sizes, contributions to color, complexity and nuance.

The selection was delicious and dipped into a wide variety of tastes. Amy Nudain, a 33-year-old on vacation with her parents, found Baileyana to be her favorite winery so far.

“I’m not a wine expert, but I’ve tried more kinds than the average person, and this Chardonnay is the most crisp and satisfying yet,” Nudain said.

Quite different in looks and size than Baileyana, Claiborne and Churchill, a small, family-owned and operated winery, was founded in 1983 and is also located in the heart of Edna Valley.

This quaint but beautiful winery specializes in premium dry wines made from Riesling, Gewrztraminer, and Pinot Gris grapes, as well as handcrafted Pinot Noir from several nearby vineyards. Small lots of other wines are also produced, including Chardonnay, Syrah and a Port-style wine.

The aim of Claiborne and Churchill is to create pleasurable dinner wines in which there is a harmonious balance of fruit and oak, structure and texture.

Mark Stahl, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher from Arroyo Grande, considers the Claiborne and Churchill Pinot Noir to be the best.

“It’s so different from other Pinot Noirs that I’ve tried. … I will definitely be coming back or stocking up because this, to me, is better than any dessert,” Stahl said.

Edna Valley Vineyards also brings a remarkable mix of wines to the table.

The main idea behind the workings of Edna Valley Vineyards is that wine should be as pure of an expression of the place and the grape as possible. Their fruit is handled gently and they treat the wine with respect, minimizing pumping, fining and filtration.

The vineyard focuses on their estate-grown Chardonnay, but also has a strong commitment to producing Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

While each winery is unique and beautifully landscaped, with a wide selection of delicious wines to taste, the 2003 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay won me over. It has a wonderful tart apple and smooth pear taste, and for only $15, it’s definitely at the top of its class.

For those that can’t quite fall in love with the taste of wine, San Luis Obispo also has some choices of breweries to try.

Downtown Brewing Co., one of the most popular spots for a college student’s Friday night, serves as a brewery, restaurant and place for dancing.

The brew master, Steve Courier, has won several awards in connection with his work at Downtown Brewing Co. and is nationally recognized for his brewing skills.

Jordan Mitchell, a 21-year-old Cuesta student, makes Downtown Brewing Co. his most visited spot on the weekend. He goes for dinner, the beer and the people.

“They have some of the best beers on tap and they always have something fun going on,” Mitchell said. “Wine was never really my thing, it’s too fancy, but I would take a cold beer any time.”

For primitive man, beer was as important as food and may have been a diet staple even before bread was invented. The relationship between baking bread and brewing has been a close one.

Central Coast Brewing uses this thought as inspiration to bring back the idea of what beer used to mean, and along the way has created a quality name and reputation for itself.

Recognized as one of the premier brewing facilities in California’s Central Coast region, this brewery is known far and wide for its variety of hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind microbrews and signature ales.

If interested in tasting some of the finest beers on the Central Coast, like Ryan Cinders, a 25-year-old chef, then Central Coast Brewing is a place to stop.

“There’s a lot of wine tasting, but not a lot of beer tasting,” Cinders said. “I wish there were more breweries like this, where you can come in and sample all sorts of beers. … This is my favorite; it has the best beer to go with food.”

Firestone Walker Brewing Co., located in Paso Robles, claims that quality is its passion. Its goal is to craft the finest regional beers in the United States.

The Firestone Double Barrel Ale and Pale Ale each earned gold medals and top honors in their respective categories at the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew Competition of 2002. Earlier this year, the Double Barrel Ale earned the lone gold medal for top honors in its category at the World Beer Cup, as well as a gold medal for 90 points at the World Beer Championships.

All breweries included a fine selection of various beers, but the Firestone Pale Ale captured my taste buds the most.

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