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April 18th, 2013 by Pasadena Independent
Pismo Beach is a gem on California’s rich central coast. With small, beach town charm, legendary surfing waves, and a burgeoning local wine industry, the city has grown into an exciting, eclectic destination for the discerning traveler.
A friend and I began a recent getaway to Pismo Beach at the ocean-front Cliffs Resort (www.cliffsresort.com), where we checked into a modern and comfortable 4th floor suite. Overlooking the ocean, the spacious room came with a balcony pointed at the water, a soft king bed, large flat screen TV, tub and shower, small fridge, small couch and lounge chair, mp3 player, and an office area with desk, chair and free wireless internet.
Beyond its 160 rooms and suites, the Cliffs Resort also boasts a state-of-the art fitness center, big heated pool, gift shop, business center, more than 10,000 sq-ft of meeting space, a full-service spa, and the renown Marisol Restaurant and Bar.
But the hotel’s best feature is its picturesque location on the rocky cliffs of Pismo Beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and pristine Shell Beach. To help take advantage of this, the hotel created a nature trail leading down to the beach and surrounding caves and tide pools.
When not relaxing at the hotel, we explored the city. Known around the world for its surfing beaches, Pismo has now also become a hot spot for wine-lovers and connoisseurs. With a unique Mediterranean climate, helped by ocean-front hills that channel the right amount of wind and sunlight into its vineyards, the region is perfect for year-round wine tasting.
Pismo Beach’s lush backyard includes the wine regions of Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, and Avila Valley, where varietals such as Pinot Noirs, rich Chardonnays, Zinfandels, Cabernets, and velvety-smooth Merlots are produced by some of the most respected winemakers in California.
What we found engaging about the region is the intimate setting in which many of the wineries are set. Many of the facilities are family-run, with owners waiting to great guests at the front door.
One such intimate vineyard that we visited was Center of Effort (www.centerofeffortwine.com) a beautiful estate pitched along south-facing slopes in the western Edna Valley, just 4.5 miles from the Pacific. The winemaking at this operation is led by Mike Sinor and Nathan Carlson, both veteran Edna Valley winemakers. Mike and Nathan told me about their handcrafted process of premium French oak barrels for aging and native fermentations, and about their latest Chardonnay creation.
Back at Shell Beach we had lunch at Lido Restaurant and Lounge, located on the water, at exclusive Dolphin Bay Resort (www.thedolphinbay.com). Here we dined on Morro Bay oysters, shrimp cocktails, and curried shrimp with rice and veggies. While eating we met Chef, Brian Collins, who spoke of the inspiration behind his California Coastal Cuisine.
After lunch we lounged by the pool at The Cliffs Resort and then then drove downtown for wine tasting at Tastes of the Valleys (www.tastesofthevalleys.com), a quaint shop with more than 600 wines by the glass.
For dinner we discovered Sea Venture Restaurant (www.seaventurerestaurant.com), located on the 3rd floor inside the Sea Venture Resort. With a memorable sunset view, we devoured Oysters Rockefeller, Cesar salad, baked salmon, and a Sea Venture signature trio of shrimp, scallops, crab cake and tossed with pancetta. We complemented the meal with local wine from Edna Valley, and cheese cake for dessert.
From May 31 to June 2, Pismo Beach will hold the 4th annual Wine, Waves and Beyond festival. This classic surf and wine event celebrates the best of San Luis Obispo County, while combining the fun, laid back atmosphere of wine country and the unique surf culture. For more information, visit: www.winewavesandbeyond.com.
The Cliffs Resort is located at 2757 Shell Beach Road Pismo Beach, CA 93449. For reservations, call (805)773-5000 or visit www.cliffsresort.com. For more information on visiting Pismo Beach, and about upcoming festivals and activities, visit: www.classiccalifornia.com.
-Photo and story by Greg Aragon