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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 12:43 am | Fair 49º


Donna Polizzi

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Come On In, the Water’s Wine at Alapay Cellars in Avila Beach

Award-winning wines and charming tasting room are unexpected delights in San Luis Obispo County beach town


An adorable tasting room may not be what you’re expecting in laid-back Avila Beach, but Alapay Cellars fits right in and is well worth the stop.

After entering the rounded building at 415 First St., a crescent-shaped, brightly tiled stairway leads you to a marine-themed, downstairs tasting room along with the main bar and an open seating area surrounded by gift shop displays.

The vibe is friendly, inviting and — literally — swimming with energy. Anticipate bellying up to the bar and facing a huge saltwater aquarium teeming with colorful fish and vibrant coral to entertain and delight you during the tasting.

Alapay Cellars gets its name from the Chumash Indian word meaning “heavenly” or “above the world,” and features a relaxed and relaxing environment a block from the beachfront.

Aside from the atmosphere, Alapay Cellars is all about wine — and not just any wine, but numerous award-winning wines.

Our first pour was the 2015 Barbera, a French Camp Vineyards, Italian varietal and silver medal winner in the 2017 Central Coast Wine Competition.

Next up was the 2015 Alatre, from the Central Coast, a gold medal winner at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This blend of 40 percent Malbec, 30 percent Petit Sirah and 30 percent Lagrein delights the palate, especially when it is paired with barbecue or a hearty meat dish.

Then the 2014 Reserve Petit Sirah Tres Niños Vineyard, another gold medal winner as the Best Petit Sirah at the 2017 Central Coast Wine Competition.

“The fruit was harvested behind Lake Lopez, in nearby Arroyo Grande, and then aged for three years in new French oak barrels,” said Scott Remmenga, Alapay Cellars’ owner and winemaker.

“Our results were characteristics of plum notes and soft vanilla. My family and friends enjoy it with beef dishes and barbecues.”

Other wines of note include the 2013 Zinfandel Port, a silver medalist in the Central Coast Wine Competition. Jammy and slightly sweet, this is an excellent dessert wine with aromas of raspberry.

The wine added a second medal to the owners’ collection after winning “The Best Whimsical Label” in the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Dessert wines are winners at my house, and the 2016 Late Harvest Moscato earned the gold medal at both the 2017 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2017 Central Coast Wine Competition. If you enjoy a sweeter dessert wine, this is crisp and full-bodied, with a burst of citrus.

After tasting these winners, I’m sure you’ll agree that Remmenga should also be called “The Golden Boy.” His wines won five separate gold medals in the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, including a Pinot Noir, Cinsault, Viognier, Syrah Port and a Double Gold Syrah.

Located just one short block from Front Street, the beachfront of Avila Beach, Alapay Cellars is one of the best kept secrets on the Central Coast.

Of course, you’ll want to enjoy the rest of what Avila Beach has to offer with its breathtaking view, its picturesque pier and numerous dining and shopping choices.

There are several hotels in the small area, including a couple that overlook the beach from Front Street.

Some of the local favorite hangouts include Custom House, 404 Front St., and Ocean Grill, 268 Front St., for fine dining and views of the Pacific Ocean and Mr. Rick’s, 404 Front St., for live entertainment and pool tables.

If you’re looking for a coastal getaway with a more remote feel, consider Avila Beach, which is about 7½ miles west of Pismo Beach, just off Highway 101 as it turns north toward nearby San Luis Obispo. As always, temperatures are mild, the views are majestic and the beach and surrounding landscapes are gorgeous.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys 2 the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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