Sextant Wines and the Gypsy Vardo

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 the 101 freeway is mesmerizing.

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 the 101 freeway is mesmerizing.

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

We headed north on the Hwy 101 and took the Price Street exit in Pismo Beach.  As soon as you begin driving east, you will transform and distress as the country roads are lined with fresh green grass and deep blue Lupine blooming in abundance.

When you turn left on HWY#227, you will 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 over 100 years is located at 1653 Old Price Canyon Road.   It was once a horse and buggy stop for mail delivery and general store. Sextant Wines Tasting Room and Gourmet Deli now fills the lovely old building with fine wines, fun people, hand-made furniture and tasty food.  The setting is what I like to call, Country-Class.

Rick Quinney, the tasting room “king”, was informative and he was a riot. Each time he came to the table was a gift, because not only was he bringing fabulous wines, but the sassiness that left us a grinning until the next taste. He started us off with the 2014 Wheelhouse- deep ruby red, smooth and smokey- leaving 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.  It just might be true, since they were sold out. Quinney shared “the (SLH) Santa Lucia Highlands, out of Monterey County, are barrel fermented and aged for 10 months. 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.”   Nice… They’re sold out and he teases me and my guests.

If you get a wild “hare” to see something interesting, ask your tasting room host if the Gypsy Vardo is on the property. Located directly behind the Sextant tasting room, 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 the two of them passed, their daughter Pattea Torrence decided to bring new life into this incredible wagon in 2011, the year of the rabbit, in honor of Nene Pi, Pattea Torrence’s mother, who was also born in the year of the rabbit.

Pattea covered the entire interior with textiles and lush pillows, some of which her mother had given her when she was alive.  It’s a romantic hideaway like no other. I thought that this time of year was the perfect time to tell you about this amazing place and the Gypsy Vardo. It’s located during cottontail rabbits and native birds fluttering in the distance.

Pattea commissioned her mother’s dearest friend Sue, to paint rabbits on the exterior of the Gypsy Vardo.  This roaming gypsy caravan is a unique coastal sight to be seen.  If you are lucky, you’ll get to see it when you visit Sextant Winery.  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.

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