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The best fall festivals 

It's time to celebrate in SLO County with wine and seafood

LEARN BY DOING :  Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance presents Crave, a winetasting experience geared for young adults, on Oct. 23 at the SLO Vets Hall. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CRAVE
  • LEARN BY DOING : Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance presents Crave, a winetasting experience geared for young adults, on Oct. 23 at the SLO Vets Hall.
Fall is a beautiful time of year to be in San Luis Obispo County, and it’s a great season for food and wine lovers. It’s a time when the final harvesting of stone fruits, corn, and strawberries grown on the Central Coast signifies the end of summer. And it’s crunch time for wineries that go into full swing, racing to harvest winegrapes at the optimal point of ripeness. There’s no such thing as an eight-hour work day. A week ago Ortman Family winemaker, Matt Ortman, told me he worked a 20-hour day. Yet these passionate winemakers still find the time to share their delicious wines with consumers during their festive harvest parties.


“Harvest in Paso Robles wine country is a sensation that can only be experienced among the vines,” said Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “Warmth throughout wine country flourishes with the buzz of activity surrounding the weekend, which is the perfect time to experience the season condensed into three days.” It’s also a great time to meet all of the new wineries that open in time for the annual harvest, and to visit old friends at wineries in the Paso Robles, Edna, Arroyo Grande, and Avila valleys.


However, there is one excellent annual wine and seafood event that doesn’t take place at a winery, called Sea Fare. It’s a celebration that benefits one of the jewels in San Luis Obispo’s crown, the Avila Beach Marine Institute. Now in its tenth year, this event attracts 20 restaurants and 25 wineries and breweries from all over California. They gather together under the big tent at the Avila Beach Golf Resort to offer guests fabulous foods with extraordinary drinks. 


Sea Fare’s proceeds provide “underserved children” with scholarships to participate in their hands-on marine science educational programs. Visit their website,, where you can view photos of children in classrooms and on the beach who are beaming with joy over the opportunity to hold their first live crab or starfish. They also participate in on-board whale watching and a floating laboratory. You can become a member, which entitles you to discounts on activities for you and your family. While you’re having a great time at Sea Fare, you’re providing local kids with an unforgettable maritime experience.


Thursday – Saturday, October 15 - 17

Paso Robles Harvest Wine Weekend


If you want to walk in the shoes of one of our local winemakers, visit Paso Robles wine country during this annual fall harvest event. What better way to understand winemaking than by seeing the process through the winemaker’s eyes? And you can enjoy every aspect of harvest by visiting this popular wine region in mid-October. Local wineries are offering open house parties with everything from grape stomps and blending seminars to vineyard tours, winemakers’ dinners, and barrel and library tastings. 


This three-day event features 130 Paso Robles wineries offering 150 individual events throughout the weekend. By visiting you can plan your course by the day, the activity, or map out your favorite wineries. You can also search for barbecues, live music, art, or winemakers’ dinners to maximize your Paso Robles wine country experience.


Among my favorite educational experiences is the event happening at Opolo on Paso’s Westside. Besides the grape stomping, ethnic dancing, and enticing food and wine pairings throughout the weekend, they’re hosting the “Far Out Wineries.” This outstanding group of wineries conducts an educational seminar only twice yearly. This time, each of the 17 members of this group will provide the audience with the wine they consider their best, and discuss its merits. For details and reservation numbers for wineries, restaurants, or tickets for Paso Robles wine country events, visit


Friday, October 23

Crave – A Paso Robles wine experience


This unique wine tasting event is geared toward the millennial generation, providing a better understanding of the complexities of fine wines. The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance will transform the Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue in SLO, into a hip Soho-like (New York City) lounge where the atmosphere is relaxed and guests will have access to some of the finest wines made in Paso Robles. You must be 21 or older to enter. Nine wine bars, each devoted to a specific variety like Syrah, Viognier or Cabernet Sauvignon, will serve more than 60 different wines to taste. Complimentary foods will be available to pair with each of your wine tastings. And free rides are available through the Wine Wrangler, which will provide safe transportation from three drop-off points: the Cal Poly Student Union, downtown SLO, and the Laguna Shopping Center. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. For advance tickets visit


Friday, October 23

Sea Fare!


Come to Avila Beach Golf Resort and enjoy the tasty treats offered by an array of amazing wineries, breweries and restaurants from 5:50 to 9 p.m. This unique event provides you the opportunity to dress up—it’s semiformal—and consume mass quantities of food and adult beverages (but only if you have a designated driver if you’re imbibing wine and beer). If you’re looking for good buys, bid in the live and silent auctions for cool lifestyle events including overnight stays, restaurant dinners, collectible or drinkable wines (it’s up to you), artwork, golf, and more. Visit for details about the participating breweries, wineries, and restaurants, and to buy tickets. Among the outstanding participants are: Olde Port Inn, Ciopinot, McPhee’s at Avila Beach, Mee Heng Lo, Novo, Baileyana, Caymus, Claiborne & Churchill, Grgich, Jordan, Kynsi, Laetitia, McKeon Phillips, Salisbury, Saucelito Canyon, Silver Oak, Southern Wine & Spirits, Stephen Ross, Talley, Young’s Market, and more. It’s a great cause for the Avila Beach Marine Institute. For tickets, $75 per person, visit or call 595-7280.


Friday and Saturday, November 6 -8

SLO Vintners Harvest Celebration


This popular weekend event to promote South County wineries starts with Friday night’s winemaker dinners. On Saturday they offer the grand tasting and auctions, and on Sunday open house events along the wine trails. The SLO Vintners Association promises: “This is one beach party you won’t want to miss.” I’ve attended most of their events over the past 13 years, and they aren’t exaggerating. Get all of the details, reservations, and/or tickets by visiting Come back to Cuisine next week for the juicy details about the latest changes in Edna and Arroyo Grande Valley wine country.


You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at


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