Growing Greens and Wine in Central Coast California

Have you thought about growing grapes for your very own vineyard and wine? I was reminded of a dream of another life as my boyfriend and I escaped Los Angeles and drove into central coast wine country. My fantasy features driving an old farm truck through my vineyard, inspecting grapes, a rangy dog, a mutt of indiscriminate origin, grinning next to me. I pour glasses of home-grown wine for friends at my outdoor dinner parties. Apparently my dream is possible on a smaller scale, even sans truck and dog, if I were to grow backyard grapes. Check out the University of California’s site to learn more about growing from vine to wine!

Though I love my life in LaLaLand, I needed the escape, to slow down, roll down the windows, look at wide open landscapes. This last weekend I tried very hard not to over-pack (a problem of always wanting options!), put some summer sweaters and sandals into the City Farm weekender, and the boyfriend and I drove up to Cambria, one of our favorite spots along the central coast. We found a place for sleep and morning coffee via AirBnB, and spent the rest of our weekend sipping local wines, eating fresh food, and catching up with old friends at our annual college reunion.

Before meeting up with our friends and their broods, we drove to Paso Robles, in search of a winery and the viognier we had enjoyed with seafood paella at dinner at Robin’s. We headed inland from Cambria, a gorgeous drive through golden hills dotted with trees, verdant valleys, and hillside vineyards.  I didn’t think I could be happier, til on a whim we pulled into SummerWood winery to try a tasting.

We were greeted by the most informed intern I have ever met, a Cal Poly student who walked us through the varietals and growing practices for specific regions. It didn’t take much to convince us that their viognier was the best I’ve tried.  If you want to grow your own vine to wine, viognier might not be right for you, as it requires the hot days and cold nights of that particular part of Paso Robles, but I do recommend you drink it while you plant the best varietal for your region. Delicious and light, it has aromas of honeysuckle and flavors of orange, peach, and apricot, with a hint of vanilla.

We bought a few bottles for special occasions as well as some to share with our friends: “mommy juice” for the parents overwhelmed with a weekend of five families of young children. Two of our college friends married in Central Coast and have settled in to a little homestead in Arroyo Grande, a few miles inland from Pismo Beach.

Wendi, who loves to garden and creates her own floral arrangements out of vintage ties, now has space for chickens, barrel gardens (to protect her greens from gophers), and a place to pitch colorful tents, where the offspring of the five families camped out over the weekend, running around the yard, chasing chickens.

Their house is tucked into the valley, where an ocean breeze makes for a lovely, moderate climate. Though it is not often hot enough for tomatoes until the fall, spinach, zucchini, kale, and chard grow wonderfully well there. Wendi’s two wee ones love to snack on snap peas and make fresh zucchini bread.  The chicken coop is home to 12 girls, some rescued, some adopted, commanded by two grouchy grande dames that are the most beautiful of the bunch.  They all run free most of the time, eating the family’s scraps and creating compost for the garden, as well as laying up to seven eggs a day.

It was a lovely getaway to chilly coastal climes and hot valley hillsides.  What’s your favorite way to escape the city in summer?  Are you thinking of growing vines to make wine?  Check out that University of Caifornia site, or California Vineyards for advice on planting your grapes based on microclimates, soil, and sun.  What might work in your yard?  Comment below or tell us via Twitter:  @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm.