Harvest Time and Wine Time By the Bay and By the Beach

It’s Fall Harvest in San Luis Obispo County and coastal wine grape growers are exhausted, but hopeful the bountiful harvest will ultimately crush to become  memorable 2012 wines.

            Many of the vineyards are hidden in the hills beyond the scenic coastline. “San Simeon and Cottontail Creeks, Santa Rosa and Santa Rita Creek Roads, Green Valley off of Hwy. 46 have grape vineyards,” explained Stuart Selkirk of Cayucos Cellars.

            Cayucos Cellars, Harmony Cellars, Hearst Ranch Winery, Moonstone Cellars of Cambria and Red Zeppelin Winery in Morro Bay represent scenic coast wineries with tasting rooms.

And more Estero Bay wine bars have emerged. Morro Bay Wine Sellers below Windows on the Water has added competition from Morro Bay’s STAX Wine Bar next to Giovanni’s Fish Market and Bella Vino’s Wine & Cheese Bar near DiStacio’s Italian Ristorante. In Cayucos Full Moon Wine Bar & Bistro and newly opened Backstage Pass have Ocean Avenue addresses. www.winecoastcountry.com   

            “When someone finds out we produce the wines right here, they prefer to stay on the coast and taste and enjoy our weather” said Selkirk.

            Cayucos Cellars has produced wine since 1983. East of Cayucos, the Selkirk ranch was originally an old dairy. Today barrels are stacked to age before bottling and offering to consumers at their 131 N. Ocean tasting room.  

            Selkirk added, “We bottle Zinfandel, Pinot, Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay and our blends.  The pinot grapes are his biggest challenge.  They take constant maintenance and 90 degree weather or mildew creeps in. We produce 500 to 800 cases of aged premium wines annually.”

            Cayucos Cellars is a family affair with its only employees being wife Laura and siblings Clay, Ross, and Paige, especially during harvest.  Clay is assistant wine-maker and tasting room/marketing manager.  He explained the cycle of wine making. “After harvest picking in the fall, the vines are dormant over the winter.  About February pruning is critical to allow the leaves to “bud out” and train the shoots for proper sunlight. Once the grapes meet the vintners satisfaction on the vine, red grapes are picked and separated from their “must” – stems and seeds – then allowed to ferment naturally for one to two weeks. Finally before they are barreled they go through a press, which squeezes the juice from the grapes.”

            Stuart admitted their equipment was “old school” but worked. “My investment was only $30,000 instead of $500,000.  No debt allows us to age our wines longer – three to six years – before bringing them to market.”

            “We haven’t had time to talk to each other for weeks,” said Clay. “We pass each other working this year’s harvest or working the tasting room.”