My husband Clint and I decided to kick off 2015 with a mini staycation on the Central Coast in lovely little Cambria. Normally during our time off, we leave the coast and head up to the mountains to get lost in the forest. The great thing about Cambria is that it has the best of both worlds, beautiful beaches surrounded by tall pine trees.
We started our day with a little lunch and wine tasting just north of Cambria, at the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room located inside the historic Sebastian's General Store that dates back to 1852. It's a great place to learn a little history about the ranch and after tasting some wine, you can try a Hearst Ranch burger from the cafe next door. Hearst Ranch Winery specializes in handcrafting high quality wines made from grapes grown locally in the warm climate of Paso Robles. They primarily offer Bordeaux varietals, but also have a Chardonnay and a nice white Cuvée, for the white wine fans. I was especially fond of their Malbec and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Following our lunch and tasting, we headed up the hill to the famous Hearst Castle. I've been visiting this opulent abode since I was a kid and I am still amazed every time I tour the grounds. It was a little sad to see the beautiful Neptune Pool drained of water, and the fountains throughout the property turned off, but understandable considering we're in one of the worst droughts in California history.
On our way back to town, we stopped along the road to snap some photos of the famous Hearst Ranch zebras that still roam the hills just north of Cambria. Next up was check-in at The Blue Dolphin Inn, located directly across the street from beautiful Moonstone Beach. What a treat this place is! When we checked in, the receptionist mentioned they had an oceanfront room available and asked if we'd like to switch. Not only were we able to watch an amazing sunset from our room, but we even spotted whales the next morning just off the coast. How often do you get to whale watch from bed?!
For dinner, we headed into town to Madeline's. It was our first time eating in this charming little restaurant/wine bar. The atmosphere is very cozy and the selection of wine is terrific. Perhaps the biggest draw for me is that their menu is based on locally sourced products. We both ordered the Chef Tasting paired with local wines. The courses included Red Abalone, Lobster Bisque, Local Sea Bass, Wild Boar and honestly, the MOST incredible Bananas Foster I have ever tasted. Along with the food, the service was fantastic.
The following morning we woke to breakfast delivered to our room, which was included as part of our stay at the Blue Dolphin Inn. After eating breakfast in bed while watching whales pass by just off the coast, we headed out to Stolo Family Vineyards & Winery. The property has a beautifully restored farmhouse located just below their nine-acre vineyard. After tasting the warmer climate varietals from Heart Ranch Winery the day before, it was nice to taste wines grown in a cooler micro-climate along the coast. Because of their location, Stolo's specialties are Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Other notables were the Sauvignon Blanc and my favorite, which we were lucky enough to get a barrel sample of, their delicious Gewurztraminer. During our tasting we were offered a relaxed, friendly tour by the winemaker Nicole Bertotti Pope. Nicole was very thorough in educating us from everything about their farming to their winemaking. While touring the facility, we met Nicole's husband Luke, their Vineyard Consultant, as well as her father, her young son, and Mr. Stolo himself. We definitely appreciated the family-owned vibe of this vineyard. As much as I loved the wines, I have to admit my favorite part of our visit was meeting Chet and Betty, their fainting goats. As sad as it is, we were fortunate enough to be there when Chet scared Betty and she fell down stiff for a few seconds, giving all of us a good laugh. We really enjoyed our first time at Stolo and will definitely be back any time we pass through town.
Last up on our mini staycation was a quick trip up to the elephant seal rookery. This time of year is birthing season and we were fortunate enough to spot a handful of brand new elephant seal pups. These guys are always so fascinating to watch, from the adorable little pups to the gigantic and aggressive male bulls.
Whether you're looking for a weekend of wine tasting, visiting wildlife, hiking in rolling hills, or exploring some of the most beautiful coastline in California, Cambria has all of that to offer and then some!