Roll Out the Barrels 2017: Three SLO Days of Celebrating Summer and Central California Coastal Wines
Like a good vintage wine, the SLO Wine Country Association’s annual “Roll Out the Barrels” festival has aged well and continues to improve with time.
While we think of the vibrant Central Coast wine region and its ever-increasing reach and recognition as always being so, there was a time before AVAs and before the quality of our cool coastal climate grapes were known beyond the valleys where they grew.
In 1990, closely following the designation of the Edna Valley AVA and Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, SLO Wine Country was founded and began its mission: to spread the word about our coastal region wines and wineries.
About eight area wineries joined the new SLO Wine Country association, which now has more than 30 members.
“When we formed in 1990, we wanted to reach out to consumers and share information about the area and the quality wines being produced here,” shared Heather Muran, Executive Director with SLO Wine Country.
Brainstorming and planning resulted in the first Roll Out the Barrels event, with the goal to build awareness of the AVAs and to begin building awareness of the local Central Coast wines.
How far it has come in 27 years, and yet how wonderfully close it has stayed to its roots of sharing great wines and education in a fun, friendly, hometown atmosphere.
That Was Then…
The 1990 inaugural Roll Out the Barrels was held at the former Corbett Canyon Winery (now Center of Effort).
“They set up tables in the driveway and maybe 100 or so attendees came to sample wines from Corbett Canyon and a handful of other area wineries,” said Muran.
This is Now…
While this year’s 27th annual Barrels in the Plaza is expected to sell out its 600 tickets, it keeps that small town feel. Friends come to meet friends, and people make new friends. “The friendly atmosphere brings our community together to share in what we are so fortunate to have.”
But it’s not just locals who enjoy the early summer evening on the patio. The word is getting out that this is a must-attend wine event. “We’re seeing more participants from all over California, as well as Washington State, and from as far as Canada, Mexico, and the UK.”
The event brings together a flavorful experience. “You can taste barrel samples, talk to the winemakers, learn more about winemaking, enjoy food from top local chefs and caterers, listen to music by Bear Market Riot, and just enjoy yourself on the expansive patio of the Mission San Luis Obispo downtown,” added Muran.
“It’s a great way to start the weekend, try some great local wines, and learn more about the winemaking process.
In fact, education is an exciting part of Barrels in the Plaza.
This year, two pop-up winemaker seminars will take place in the lower Mission Plaza amphitheater.
At 5:30, Fintan du Fresne from Chamisal Vineyards will present a stylistic flight of Chardonnay and barrel samples of Chardonnay. He will be educating guests and highlighting unique and different ways on how to treat and age this traditional variety, along with showcasing the different styles and unifying characteristics found in San Luis Obispo’s coastal wine region, Edna Valley.
At 6:30, John-Pierre Wolff from Wolff Vineyards will help us explore cool climate characteristics in red varietals, including Syrah, Petite Syrah. And Teroldego! From bright tannins to earth and spice, you will learn about the different flavor profiles found in cool climate Rhone varieties. (Flavor Team member Kara is very excited to learn more about Teroldego, as it’s one her favorite grapes and wines, both for the taste and for the word itself. Just emphasize the second syllable and feel how it rolls off the tongue. Lovely, right?)
And the Fun Rolls on with the Passport
While Barrels in the Plaza comes to an end Thursday evening, the weekend of wine tasting and education is just beginning.
The 4×2 Passport program allows holders to visit four wineries on both Friday and Saturday, for a total of eight.
“We expect between 400 to 600 people to enjoy the Passport experience,” said Muran, “which offers more than the usual tasting flights at each winery.”
Many of the 25 wineries participating in the Passport event will offer something a little different, a little fun.
“There will be lots of barrel samples of their various wines, some will offer reserve and library wines or vertical and horizontal tastings. Some will take passport holders on a vineyard tour (Laetitia Vineyard), one is offering a fun Wine Aroma Bar (Stephen Ross Wine Cellars), have vino-centered games (Peloton Cellars), and many wineries will have music, BBQ, small plates, food trucks, and other fun to round out the Passport experience,” said Muran.
She added, “We want the Passport experience to help people try different wines, meet the winemakers, and explore more of the great wineries in our area, from the southern end of the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA to Cambria. It’s sure to be a great two days of exploration.”
Whether you choose Barrels in the Plaza, the Passport, or the whole wine-focused weekend flight, it’s sure to be an event to remember.
For More Information and Tickets
There’s still time to get tickets for Thursday’s Barrels in the Plaza and the Friday/Saturday 4×2 Passport.
Visit SLO Wine Country
SLO Wine Country highlights the coastal wineries, most of which are less than 10 miles from the ocean, and many are within five miles of the Pacific. “In addition to the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs, association members are from Avila Valley, Nipomo, Cayucos, and Cambria, said Heather Muran, SLO Wine Country Executive Director. “We have the best of both worlds: 10 minutes from the ocean and great wine country.”