Roll Out the Barrels: 3 days to Celebrate SLO Wine (updated 2018)

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SLO Wine Country’s annual Roll Out the Barrels event highlights the wineries of California’s Central Coast. The three-day event (2018 dates are June 21-23) kicks off with Barrels in the Plaza at the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in downtown San Luis Obispo, featuring small bites from local chefs and restaurants, music, and wine tasting from coastal wineries. The two-day Passport to SLO Wine Country features special events at member wineries throughout Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Cambria, and Paso Robles.

Like a good vintage wine, the SLO Wine Country Association’s annual “Roll Out the Barrels” festival continues to improve with time.

Enjoying wine, food, and the friendly atmosphere at Barrels in the Plaza at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

In the Beginning

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.

“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, Santa Maria, Paso Robles, 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.”

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 since then, 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 first Roll Out the Barrels, 1990. (photo courtesy SLO Wine Country Association)

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.

Corbett Canyon Winery was site for first Roll Out the Barrels event 27 years ago. (photo courtesy SLO Wine Country Association)

This is Now…

While the event now draws more than 500 attendees, it keeps that small town feel. Friends come to meet friends, and people make new friends. “This welcoming 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 of the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. 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.”

Just one of the small bites to accompany coastal wines at Barrels in the Plaza.

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 a local band, and just enjoy an evening out in downtown San Luis Obispo,” 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.
Seminars cover a range of winemaking topics, from climate and viniculture to grapes and cooperage.

2018 Seminars at Barrels in the Plaza
Barrel Toasting and Cooperage Demonstration: Using 3-year seasoned oak harvested from the region of Allier in Central France, expert cooper Salvador Canchola from Tonnellerie Ô will demonstrate the art behind building, shaping, and toasting a wine barrel. He’ll answer questions, and attendees will enjoy a tasting of SLO Coast wines as winemakers share how barrel toasting plays a part in the winemaking process.

Cool Climate and the Emergence of Albariño: Croma Vera winemaker Jeremy Leffert takes us on a comparative tasting tour of regional Albariños, as he shares how micro-climates change the flavor profile of the wines. Wineries include:
Croma Vera wines: 2017 Albariño, Spanish Springs Vineyard
Niner Wine Estate: 2017 Albariño, Jespersen Ranch Vineyard
Sinor LaVallee: 2015 Albariño, Bassi Vineyard
Tangent: 2016 Albariño, Paragon Vineyard

Biodynamics 101, Or As Much As We Can Discuss About a Complex Topic in 15 Minutes: Bob Lindquist, winemaker from Qupé & Verdad Wine Cellars, discusses the process behind Biodynamics, a holistic manner of farming and viticulture that started in the 1920s. He’ll share a flight with wines made within this approach to showcase the results.
Verdad: 2016 Albariño, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard- Edna Valley
Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard: 2015 Pinot Noir- Edna Valley
Qupé: 2014 Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard- Edna Valley

Top chefs and caterers share their talents (photo courtesy SLO Wine Country Association)

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 Passport to SLO Wine Country allows holders to visit four wineries on both Friday and Saturday, for a total of eight.

“The Passport experience usually offers more than the usual tasting flights at each winery,” said Muran.


The 4×2 Passport offers special events at area wineries. One year, several wineries hosted animals from Paso Robles-based Conservation Ambassadors.

“There may be barrel samples of their various wines, some offer reserve and library wines or vertical and horizontal tastings. Some will take passport holders on vineyard tours, provide educational opportunities (wine aroma bar, anyone?), or offer wine-themed games,” she said.

Many wineries have live music and food trucks or caterers.

Muran 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 and Paso Robles. It’s sure to be a great two days of exploration.”

Whether you choose Barrels in the Plaza, the Passport to SLO Wine Country, or the whole wine-focused weekend flight, it’s sure to be an event to remember.

For More Information

SLO Wine Country

If you’re Roll Out the Barrels bound, you may like these related articles:
Barrels in the Plaza brings wine, education, food, and fun to SLO Wine Country (2017)
4×2 Passport to SLO Wine Country: wine tasting and more on the Central Coast (2017)
Winery Spotlight: Talley Vineyards
Winemaker Focus: Stephen Ross Dooley | Stephen Ross Wine Cellars

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