Edna Valley, Sextant Wines Hold All Kinds of Surprises

By Donna Polizzi

Living on the Central Coast often poses difficult questions. The most common one for me — simply because the options are endless — is “what am I going to do today?”

The primary things that help me narrow down my decision are the time of year and the weather. I always look forward to the surreal, green color of the rolling hills through the Central Coast, immediately following the rains, leading into spring. As the smell of fresh grass blows through the air, the scenery driving on Highway 101 is mesmerizing.

Our friends love good wine, so our adventure began in San Luis Obispo County’s bucolic Edna Valley southeast of San Luis Obispo, the perfect place to enjoy the day tasting delicious award-winning wines.

We headed north on the freeway and took the Price Canyon Road exit in Pismo Beach. As soon as you begin driving north, you’ll find yourself transformed, de-stressing along the country roads lined with fresh green grass and deep blue lupine blooming in abundance.

Right after you turn west on Highway 227, you’ll see the old Edna town site. This spot is the very heart of the Edna Valley and its official namesake. A simple corrugated tin building, once the town hall, has greeted passers-by for more than 100 years at 1653 Old Price Canyon Road

The place was once a horse-and-buggy stop for mail delivery and a general store. Sextant Wines Tasting Room & Gourmet Deli now fills the lovely old building with fine wines, fun people, handmade furniture and tasty food. The setting is what I like to call “country class.”

Rick Quinney, the tasting room “king,” was informative — and a riot. Each time he came to the table was a gift; not only was he bringing fabulous wines, but the sassiness left us a grinning until the next taste.

Quinney started us off with the 2014 Wheelhouse — deep ruby red, smooth and smoky that left a lingering warmth.

Next up, and my favorite, was the 2014 Kamal Cabernet Blend, which was liquid heaven. It was everything a Cab should be. It delivered a burst of flavor with a smooth fruit finish.

All the red wines that we tasted were excellent. I have heard that the Chardonnay was beyond compare, and that just might be true, since they were sold out.

“The Santa Lucia Highlands, out of Monterey County, are barrel fermented and aged for 10 months,” Quinney shared. “The Sextant Chardonnay sells out every year and members are disappointed when it’s gone. It’s creamy and buttery, bottled in new American oak and it’s fabulous.”

If you get a wild hair to see something interesting, ask your tasting room host if the Gypsy Vardo is on the property. Usually located directly behind the Sextant tasting room, the traditional horse-drawn Romani wagon is a one-of-a-kind hidden gem.

As it turns out, the Gypsy Vardo was built for a lovely lady named Jeannine, aka Nene Pi, in the 1970s by her husband. After they died, their daughter, Pattea Torrance, decided to bring new life to this incredible wagon. That restoration was in 2011, the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, a coincidental tribute to Torrance’s mother, who also had been born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Torrance commissioned a dear friend of her mother’s to paint rabbits on the outside of the wagon. Inside, she covered just about everything with textiles and lush pillows, some of which her mother had given her before she died. It’s a romantic hideaway like no other.

The Gypsy Vardo is a romantic hideaway and a unique coastal sight to be seen. Due to its popularity, it has been known to hop around from place to place.

Edna Valley is certainly a place to be explored, and one day isn’t enough for this tiny town of roughly 200 people.

So, hop to it. Edna Valley and fine wine are waiting.

The Sextant Wines Tasting Room & Gourmet Deli is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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