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Living in paradise 

So much good food, so little time

Those of us who love fine food and wine believe living in Central Coast wine country is akin to living in paradise. We have so many awesome choices to indulge in: We can picnic on a mountain top while enjoying incredible vineyard and ocean views; visit artisan farms for fine wines, goat cheese, exotic fruits, or olive oil; sip clam chowder in restaurants alongside the Pacific; and feast on excellent food and wine pairings created by talented local chefs.

The fact is we can enjoy all of the above pretty much year-round thanks to all of the wine and food festivals that take place each month. And some months offer more events to choose from than others—particularly April and October. In mid-April, three overlapping events offer something for every taste. While that makes it difficult to choose one over another, they all offer an outstanding experience.


The main event at each of the three festivals takes place Saturday afternoon. Why not make it a blast by teaming up with several of your friends and hiring a limo or tour bus? That ensures you a safe ride home along with everyone else on the road. Most festivals nowadays offer shuttle service, so do look into taking advantage of a safe ride whenever you can. Visit the websites (provided below) for each of these festivals to learn more about tours, winemaker lunches and dinners, and educational tastings on the art of pairing food and wine.

Wine and food lovers have three choices among these great festivals—all running the weekend of April 15, and it’s feasible that you could attend each one on a different day. No matter which you choose you’re sure to have a great time.

Earth Day Food and Wines Festival

The three-day weekend Earth Day Food & Wine Festival offers gourmet foods, barrel tastings, cooking demos, and sustainability tours at local farms and vineyards. It also makes you feel good about supporting businesses committed to green practices. This year the main event takes place at Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery in Templeton. During Saturday’s festival, you’ll enjoy unlimited samples of treats from an array of Central Coast artisan farms and restaurants and fine wines from 150 producers. There will also be exhibitors featuring Earth-friendly products ranging from home building and energy-efficient products and services to boutique clothing and glassware.

During the 2009 festival, they only generated two bags of trash, said event coordinator and head of the Central Coast Vineyard Team Kris O’Connor.  She hopes to further reduce the amount of trash this year. The food provided by artisan food specialists and chefs is served in recyclable and compostable plates and utensils. They also reduce plastic waste by asking guests to drink water from their wineglass, a sure way to leave a minimal footprint.

“We’re excited about having the main event in wine country among the vineyards this year. It gives people a chance to see what it means to be in a healthy environment,” O’Connor noted. “We have more vendors than we had in the past, and they’re really stepping it up this year with the special dishes they’re serving.”

Tickets cost $75 each or $250 for a four-pack, $40 for designated drivers, and must be purchased in advance. For tickets and details about the event and the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a nonprofit organization, visit

Taste of Pismo

I thoroughly enjoyed this event last year because it’s a bit more intimate and relaxed compared to larger events. The tent was arranged with the wineries and restaurants around the perimeter, while the center had plenty of tables where guests could sit down to enjoy the food and wine. It takes place in a huge tent with spectacular views at the Pismo Beach Dinosaur Caves overlooking the Pacific. There’s easy access from Hwy. 101 and plenty of parking. All weekend long, something special is going on under the big tent for Taste of Pismo. Now in its seventh year, it has been expanded to three days with the addition of a fundraiser and a pancake breakfast. Friday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. offers Good Vibrations, a fundraiser for Kinsley Thomas Wong, a kite surfer who was seriously hurt last year. Mary Meserve-Miller’s Legends of the Deep and the Pismo Beach Boys will perform from 6 to 7 p.m. Guests will be offered finger-foods and a no-host bar during the evening. Tickets cost $30 each.

The main attraction takes place Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. with more than 35 wineries and 20 restaurants, including Pismo’s most popular eateries: Cracked Crab, Del’s, Lido, Rosa’s, Sea Venture, Splash Café, Zorro’s, and more. Among the outstanding Central Coast wineries, there are great wines from Paso Robles, Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys, Santa Maria, and Santa Ynez.

The three local breweries are Pismo Beach Brewery, Tanner Jack’s, and Tap It Brewing. The ticket price includes a commemorative, stemless wine glass (how trendy) and 10 tasting tickets for food or wine. The Pismo Beach Firefighters Association is hosting a pancake breakfast on Sunday benefiting 5 Cities Youth Baseball. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and tickets cost $8 per adult, $3 per child 12 and younger. For more details, call 773-4382. For tickets, visit

Santa Barbara County Vintners Festival

The lively outdoor festival features more than 110 wineries paired with the excellent cuisine of many restaurants, including Brothers Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern, Chef Rick’s, and Hitching Post II. There’s also live music by Donna Greene and the Roadhouse Daddies and Burning James and the Funky Flames. A silent auction offers bidding on everything from collectible wines to lifestyle lots. This huge event takes place at the beautiful River Park in Lompoc, where spring flowers are in full bloom. Tickets will be available at the gate. Throughout the weekend, wineries will be providing open house events with everything from barbecues and brunch to Mardi Gras parties and barrel tasting. Festival tickets cost $75 each, $25 for designated drivers. For details, visit

Contact New Times Cuisine columnist at



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