by Jolene Rae Harrington, Director of Creative Content
We’ve been watching the Central Coast’s growing popularity as a wedding destination with eager anticipation. Its gourmet dining, plush accommodations and artisanal shops are attracting an upscale reputation, and Central Coast wines have won international recognition. Yet with all the gold medals and high style, the Central Coast retains its small-town friendliness, and locals have positively thrown out a red-carpet welcome to bridal couples from near and far. Recently we did our own Central Coast Wine Country investigation, and our tour of event-friendly wineries yielded a wealth of provocative options for you to sample:
Santa Barbara Wine Country
Picturesque and slightly off the beaten path, the wineries of Santa Barbara County are both discreet and rewarding.
- Firestone Winery – Endless rows of grapevines and oak-studded foothills are the backdrop for your wedding at this event-friendly vineyard. Pledge your love amidst acres of wild meadows accompanied by a rosy sunset, then slow dance in the treelined courtyard under the stars. Host a wine and hors d’oeuvre social hour inside the redwood-lined Tasting Room with multiple tasting bars and Spanish tiled floors. Another distinctive indoor option is the Barrel Room and Deck, where wrought-iron chandeliers give off an amber light. The piquant aroma of aging wine in enormous oak casks creates an earthy yet refined atmosphere.
- Semler Wines – Quaint and homey like its town, Semler Wines in Los Olivos warms visitors with its rustic charm and event planning know-how. From intimate backyard ceremony to refined wedding rehearsal dinner, the folks at Semler Winery (part of the Malibu Family Wines group) invite you to share special moments without spending a fortune. Their garden evokes a refreshing simplicity, while the sleek tasting room and private banquet space adds contemporary polish.
- Gainey Vineyard – With a pastoral, sunkissed setting in the Santa Ynez foothills and a year-round program of tastings, concerts and special events, Gainey winery has become a favorite gathering place. Its hacienda-style winery features a handsome Tasting Room warmed by a grand-scale fireplace. Intimate rehearsal dinners simply glow in the Wine Cellar, brightened by flickering candlelight and lined with floor-to-ceiling bottles of aging vintages. Celebrate outdoors on the patio, a grassy open-air plaza framed by leafy rows of Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Couples say their vows in the Vineyard View Picnic Area flanked by two massive oak trees, while guests enjoy commanding vistas of the vineyards and hilly countryside.
An extremely prolific wine-producing area, Paso offers its own micro-regions and the most variety of venue choices.
Cellar360 Paso Robles – With sweeping lawns that survey honey-colored hills and acres of grapevines, Cellar360 embodies the quintessential wine country experience. The grassy dell fringed with show-stopping rose bushes and the brick terrace next to a tree-shaded herb garden are almost an embarrassment of riches! So by the time you get around to touring Meridian’s sophisticated Barrel Chai—a high-ceilinged hall lined with aromatic oaken casks—you’ve fallen under Cellar360’s spell. Their service-oriented professionals will recommend local vendors, help arrange wine pairings and even provide discounts on their exclusive, limited-release vintages. (I know, we had you at “honey-colored hills”!)
Robert Hall Winery – A unique and spacious banquet facility, the Hospitality Center at Robert Hall Winery welcomes guests with an eye-catching geometric blue fountain. Paths lead to an open-air Amphitheater, encircled by reflecting pools that light up, casting a soft glow over your evening reception. Nearby, the lush Garden Terrace offers a classic wine country ambiance with its majestic oak tree strung with fairy lights, and view of the surrounding hills striped with grapevines. Tuscan-inspired interior spaces include the barrel-lined Wine Caverns. The winery’s executive chef has an impressive pedigree, and can customize your menu. Green weddings take note—Robert Hall is Certified for Sustainability in Practice!
- Still Waters Vineyards – Tucked in the newest micro-region outside of Templeton, this endearing boutique vineyard is loaded with rustic charm. The small but energetic staff believes in “attention to details,” whether it’s the year-round care they give to their fruit or the warm welcome they offer visitors. In addition to handcrafted wines, Still Waters also produces estate olive oil from their 100-year-old olive grove. Hold your ceremony on the garden lawn, with vineyard vistas and olive trees in the background. Then stage your reception in the garden and patio, where everyone can savor the sublime milieu. For the ultimate in freshness, have your caterer feature vegetables harvested from the on-site garden!
Villa San-Juliette Winery – With stunning Tuscan-inspired architecture and vineyard views to forever, this new addition to the Paso Robles winery scene is sheer romance. Four acres of manicured gardens and a luxuriously appointed interior beckon engaged couples to celebrate amid refined Old World splendor. A barrel room and enclosed patio vie with two lush outdoor sites to host different phases of your event. Villa San-Juliette Winery is a wedding venue worthy of your epic love story!
Monterey Wine Country
An agricultural oasis that’s perfect for world-class viticulture, the region boasts 9 distinct AVAs (American Viticulture Areas), stretching from Greenfield north to Moss Landing.
- Holman Ranch and Vineyard – In a setting of soul-stirring beauty, Holman Ranch is a private residence with its own family vineyards. From a hilltop in the sun-splashed Carmel Valley, the historic estate offers a tantalizing variety of scenic event spaces. Begin with a ceremony on the Hacienda Lawn, which sweeps to the edge of a sloping hillside planted with Pinot Noir grapevines. Guests have a panoramic view of the vineyard above the lush valley floor, while in the background the Santa Lucia Mountains are burnished with the gilded blush of sunset. Continue to savor the postcard-worthy vista with cocktails on the Stone Terrace and an intimate dinner beneath a majestic arbor bordered by olive saplings and young grapevines.