Looking for Wine on College Tours–Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

This is another article in the series about my travels with my son, Nathan, and visiting prospective colleges. He applied to thirteen schools, only three of which he had actually visited (and those were three of the the five where he was rejected or wait-listed). He was accepted at eight of those schools and I insisted that he could not actually attend a school that he had not physically visited.

Thus, we had a scant few weeks to visit six schools (he eliminated two of the schools he applied to right away). We visited University of Texas-Austin a few weeks prior two weeks ago, I posted about the first couple of days in California with a visit to UCLA, and last week was our ever so brief visit to the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The drive from Buellton to San Luis Obispo is a short one, it is only about 60 miles, but we left early so as to get to SLO in time for a bike ride (yes, I promised my son that I would keep wine related activity to the bare minimum but I had my bike with me and, well, I just had to ride it). We were planning on meeting my niece, a junior at Cal Poly, for a tour of campus followed by dinner in Morro Bay, a scant 15 miles west of SLO.

The ride was OK. There was something seriously wrong with my bike, but I paid the $300 to bring it with me and I was going to ride the darned thing and hope for the best. I had ridden the last time I was in SLO and the riding there is simply phenomenal. Seriously. I have ridden my bike all over Europe and the United States and few surpass San Luis Obispo County.

I did not have time for a long ride, but I made it out to the beach and did a month’s worth of elevation in Houston.

I made it back to the hotel (after a rather sketchy moment trying to cross a few lanes of traffic) with just enough time to shower and make it across town to meet up with my niece for the tour. As I mentioned in my previous posts in this series, touring college campuses during COVID was really strange. Classes were in session, roughly half of the students were on campus, but there was no one around–we saw a handful of students walking around and that was it. How could my son base this important decision on something as completely shallow as the relative attractiveness of the student body when there was no one to be seen?

I stopped for a quick photo at the nice beach at Pismo. #Bars

The tour, however, was fantastic. Nathan’s cousin was always the “quiet one” growing up, but showing us around her school, she was funny, engaging, even chatty. I had never really experienced this side of her and it was really compelling. So compelling, in fact, that Nathan immediately shot Cal Poly up to the top of the list. Which was music to my ears–I really love San Luis Obispo. Not just for the riding, which I mentioned above, but it also has some of the most underrated (and overlooked) wineries in the country. Add that Paso Robles is just a short drive away?

Yeah. Oh yeah.

So we went to dinner with my hopes high. On the drive to Morro Bay, I was already formulating excuses to visit him: “I need to go out and take him to IKEA–he doesn’t have a desk!” “He is looking rather unhealthy–I need to head out and get him a solid meal–the kid is wasting away (ignore my bike bag)!” “He forgot his Backpack! I need to take it to him right away (ignore the wine suitcase)!”

Morro Rock at sunset.

As I mentioned, we headed out to Morro Bay for dinner, which was about 20 miles west, out to the coast. We walked around a bit, gazing at the sea lions as well as Morro Rock, the last peak of the Nine Sisters, volcanic plugs formed some 23 million years ago and rest in a straight line from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

We opted for the Galley Seafood Grill and Bar (due to a decent wine list, naturally), but I remembered that my niece was not a fan of seafood. I asked her if she would prefer to go to another restaurant. 

“It’s OK, Uncle Jeff, I have been here a hundred times–they are all seafood restaurants.”

She was able to order a hamburger, which she wanted well-done. Ugh. I should have tried to play a more active role in her life. Nathan ordered some seafood pasta, and I opted for the scallops, largely due to this wine, which was lovely:

2017 Foley Chardonnay, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $40. I really wanted a wine from San Luis Obispo, but there was not a single Chard on the menu from the appellation. I thought about asking why (and willing to offer several suggestions), but I demurred, remembering that the trip was about my son, not me (but I was still going to get my Chard on). Slightly golden straw in the glass with lovely aromas of lemon curd, a bit of golden apple, and a touch of vanilla. The palate is balanced with restrained fruit, minerality, and a mouth-watering acidity. Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.

The following day, we headed up Route 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway. Yeah. Yowza. More on that next week…

…but here is a teaser.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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