Sextant Wines – Edna Valley Tasting Room
This Gypsy Wagon isn’t the tasting room, but it cheerily stands out among the handful of delightful small structures that surround the Sextant Winery Tasting Room in Edna Valley. My first visit to Sextant was a few years ago during a reunion of college girlfriends. Although the area wasn’t peppered with wineries during my university days, the proliferation of wineries in and around San Luis Obispo make for some excellent Cal Poly reunion activities. Sextant was our first stop on the party bus because Heather’s niece works there – an inside connection, always helpful when wine tasting. And it did not disappoint as a great place to visit.
Edna Hall was built in 1900 as a General Merchandise store. Two weeks after it opened, it burned to the ground. By 1908, it had been rebuilt and opened again, becoming not only the town store, but a post office, a hotel, and a dance hall. At some point it was also a saloon, and the upper floor is rumored to have held a speakeasy during prohibition. Around 1948, the tin building became an antique store, and later the combined structures housed a popular hippie community in the 1970’s. Artist Tracy Taylor transformed the hall into a painting studio in the 1980’s.
The building is designed much like those in old westerns, with a tall, squared building facade that was meant to look grander than the tin building behind it. This building has aged in a charming manner, with some loving restoration to the space that the winery houses today. Enter Pattea Torrence, who grew up close by, her parents had lived here during the ’70s. Her loves of the area and to refurbish old things drew her to Edna and in 2000 Pattea and her husband purchased the property and have been restoring the buildings and grounds to create what is now called Old Edna. In 2009 Craig and Nancy Stoller opened the tasting room for Sextant Wines, complete with a gourmet deli.
As a small child, I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents in Ojai, which was quite rural at that time, they had goats and chickens and oak trees and a big tire swing. Visiting the small complex of buildings that make up Old Edna takes me back to that time and has such a comforting feeling of those years when wooden structures were well weathered and felt nicely worn in, a nostalgic feel of what California once was during simpler times. The small out buildings like the Creamery were each built for a specific purpose during the Mercantile’s hey day, this one stored milk and butter and kept it cool, protected from the heat of the day.
During the first half of the 20th century, both the Pacific Coast Railway and the Southern Pacific Railway ran through town and stopped at the Edna depot to unload supplies and passengers. The Crib is a small building that served as a place for call girls to entertain weary travelers. The little house is now picturesquely covered in vines as if it was imagined in a fairy tale and holding untold secrets behind the overgrowth.
The metal-sheathed west side of Edna Hall
The treehouse is a more modern addition to Old Edna, it was built in 2002 by Pattea’s father for her son Kienun, and is now named after him. Her father was known as “The Duke”, he also built the colorful gypsy wagon for Pattea’s mother in the 1970’s. It has quite a story, which can be read here, and, like a true gypsy, is moved around from time to time, so you may have to look for it.
Several other refurbished buildings dot the area surrounding Sextant, they include Alma’s Reading Room (above), two adorable vacation rentals (one is a 3-bedroom house), and the Blacksmith Shop turned into a Gathering room, which is a charming place to hold a meeting, reunion, or bridal shower. A large barn is currently being restored, dubbed the Bluebelly Barn, it will no doubt be a popular event venue once the work is complete.
Craig and Nancy Stoller opened Sextant’s first tasting room in San Luis Obispo in 2007, and moved to the Old Edna location two years later in 2009. Craig is a third generation vine grower and started in the family business after graduating from Cal Poly (go Mustangs!). In 2011, Sextant grew when the Stoller’s acquired a production facility in Paso Robles and opened a second tasting room in the rapidly expanding area. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Paso Robles facility, and am looking forward to seeing that much more modern Hospitality Center.
Back inside the tasting room, the same worn, homey feeling envelops the brightly lit space. There is absolutely no formality here, just a friendly crowd at the tasting bar, lots of interesting items somewhat casually displayed for purchase, and a tasty assortment of paninis and boxed lunches at the gourmet deli. Picnic restrictions found in Napa don’t exist here and there are several great spots outside with tables.
Sextant Winery is located just 6 miles south of San Luis Obispo, a great destination by itself. But you may have noticed that being a Cal Poly grad, I am openly biased about what is one of the most beautiful places to live in California. As a matter of fact, in 2011, Oprah named SLO Town the “Happiest Place in America”. The Edna Valley AVA was formed in 1982 and now includes 30 local wineries. Temperatures are cool at night and fog rolls in most mornings, allowing for cooler growing conditions than the surrounding areas. The cool temps result in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes being the primary choice of growers. In the early 19th century, Grapes were planted by Spanish missionaries, and in the 1970’s new vineyards were planted to start California’s second gold rush, this one with the liquid gold that has become a large part of our state economy.
Plan for a stop at Sextant the next time you drive to the Central Coast of California and enjoy their wines while you discover what a charming place Old Edna is to visit. Whether you are with old friends or making new ones, you will be graciously welcomed and you will leave a satisfied smile.
Sextant Wines – Edna Valley Tasting Room
1653 Old Price Canyon Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Monday thru Friday from 10am to 4pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm
Telephone: 866-833-WINE (9463)
Here I am having my Lucy moment at one of my favorite wineries. Something you just have to do once, although wearing white capris to a grape stomping wasn't a well thought out wardrobe choice.
Although I may not always be able to tell you the difference between a Malbec and a Mourvedre, there is no better weekend trip than one spent in wine country. So join the adventure as I explore California's wineries in search of interesting design and great visual experiences. Wine tasting will definitely happen, but will not be the main focus of my posts.
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