Culinary author Brigit Binns calls the central coast area of California “Tuscany with cowboys.” And she’s so spot on—the central coast’s golden hills, oak forests, rolling vineyards, and limestone outcroppings still have a strong California-Mexico rancho character. If you’re driving through wine country, you may have to stop your car to let hundreds of bleating sheep and lambs cross the road in front of you, accompanied by their sheepherders and working collies. Occasionally you may come across a loose cow or pig that has escaped their enclosure and is happily taking a wander down the road.
The central coast is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and stretches from the ritzy towns of Monterey and Pebble Beach through spacey, hippie-throwback Santa Cruz, down through hundreds of miles of wooded coastal highways to laid back Santa Barbara. But the heart of the central coast are the small, untrodden beach towns of Cayucos and Cambria, and the vibrant, Mediterranean-like wine communities of Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. Continue reading