One of the best places to go wine tasting in California is Hearst Ranch Winery in San Simeon, California. Set by the water on the Central Coast and just across the road from the legendary Hearst Castle, Hearst Ranch Winery has been serving tantalizing vintages for years. But Covid, and a planned renovation of Sebastian’s, made them rethink their model. The result is an irresistible chance to taste terrific wine while overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that whenever we are up in Cambria, we take a trip up to neighboring San Simeon for an afternoon of wine tasting at Hearst Ranch Winery and some food at Sebastian’s. Naturally, when we realized we would be just north of Pismo for Andy’s birthday, we decided to take the drive (about 45-50 minutes) to Hearst.
Other than an outdoor wine club with friends who were all vaccinated, Andy and I haven’t been wine tasting since before the pandemic started. As you know, I’m immunocompromised, so we’ve avoided indoor activities, even months after we both got our jabs. Finding out that the wine tasting room had moved outside to safely cater to visitors made us smile.
Wine Tasting During Covid
Apparently, Sebastian’s was due for renovations even before the pandemic. But the winery’s tasting room was still housed in the historic store. Desperately needing a new space, Hearst Ranch Winery moved into the historic warehouse, which is perched above the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The atmosphere alone would make it one of the best places to go wine tasting in California. Knowing that it was relatively Covid safe makes it even better.
Our Wine Recommendations From the Tasting
Of course, the terrific wine is what keeps us coming back year after year. Partial to reds, I went with the Legacy red flight, and Andy ordered the Legacy white wine flight – allowing us to sample a far greater number of wines. I’ll start by saying that there was nothing that I wouldn’t drink in the bunch. That’s rare for me because I get very picky, particularly about white wine.
2020 Julia Rosé
We were already fans of the earlier vintages of the Julia Rosé, so we weren’t surprised that this latest iteration of the wine caught our attention. Light but with notes of strawberries and blossoms (and, I swear, some melon), it’s a medium acid blend of Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel. Not surprisingly, a bottle came home with us.
2018 Lone Tree Cabernet Franc
I surprised myself by falling for the 2018 Lone Tree Cabernet Franc. Cab Franc is often too big for me, but this was delightfully smooth. Judging by the fact that it has awarded 92 points by Vinous, I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of it. Apparently, this ages particularly well, but they recommend trying it with your favorite cheese (and letting it breathe) if you want to taste it now. So, we bought some goat cheese and salami in the handy Hearst grocery section and indulged. Their description: “The mid-palate has elegant flavors, combining notes of coffee, pipe tobacco, and graphite shavings.” I’ll say that I recognized the coffee notes, but I feel like I also got some pepper and red fruit off of it. It had a medium-high acidity, which is probably one reason I liked it so much. This bottle sold for $45 at the winery, and we look forward to trying it with friends when it gets less complicated and scary to be inside drinking red wine with other people.
2016 Proprietor’s Res. The Point
For fun, and because it was Andy’s birthday, we decided to add a special wine to our tasting: the 2016 Proprietor’s Res. The Point. At $75 a bottle, it is a little bit of a splurge wine, but we loved it. Wine Enthusiast gave it 93 points, and we gave it a “yes, we’ll take a bottle home.” This is how they describe it (and I heartily agree): “The initial aromatic notes are rich and warm with hints of malted chocolate. As you continue to inhale, beautiful, dark fruit notes intertwined with those of medium toasted French Oak fill your senses. This wine is juicy and supple on the mid-palate with a finely grained tannin structure bolstering the presentation through a graceful finish.” We are going to save this one for a little while, although it drinks beautifully right now.
Wine Tasting at Hearst Ranch Winery on California’s Central Coast
If you can’t get to California’s Central Coast, the links above will take you to the Hearst Ranch Winery’s store. I don’t get any money if you do it, but you will get some lovely wine.
If you can get up to the winery, you may want to make a reservation, particularly if you go on a weekend. We were there mid-week, and we just got lucky that a table opened up. You will want to be better planners. The address is 442 SLO San Simeon Road, San Simeon, CA 93452. Phone number is 805-927-4100. The tasting room is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm daily, and they were only doing wine tastings outside when we were there. That is subject to change depending on Covid restrictions. Sebastian’s is still closed, but there is a food truck that is there on the weekends. Otherwise, you’ll want to buy some goodies from their deli case for pairings.