An Arroyo Grande weekend getaway on California's Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County is filled with character—and top-notch wineries.
The village of Arroyo Grande is a quaint small town in California, just south of San Luis Obispo off Highway 101. Arroyo Grande is one of the Five Cities, which includes Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano. Arroyo Grande means big creek in Spanish and refers to the creek lying behind the stores on the town's main thoroughfare, Branch Street. Others refer to the town's name as Big Gulch, Muddy Creek, and Big Ditch. The town's agricultural roots echo with the ever-present roosters—the town mascots—who reside along the creek. Today this lively town boasts cafes, curio shops, and wineries. Its fertile soils make Arroyo Grande Valley an important ranch and farm community. Presently, you will find many wineries in San Luis Obispo County and the town is part of the Arroyo Grande Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). Join me as I share my Arroyo Grande weekend getaway.
History of Arroyo Grande
Prior to becoming part of the US Territory, Francis Ziba Branch discovered the area and eventually settled in the region to raise cattle. Hence the main street in town is called Branch Street. In 1862 the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors established the township of Arroyo Grande, and the city was incorporated in 1911.
Today Arroyo Grande reminds visitors of an Old West town with its swinging footbridge, old schoolhouses, and roaming roosters. The only difference is the youthful craft scene enhanced by breweries, wineries, and unique eateries.
Swing Forward from Past to Present
When visiting the Village of Arroyo Grande, you should take time to walk across the swinging footbridge that crosses the creek. The Short family built the bridge circa 1875 to connect their property that straddled either side of the creek. The bridge spans 171 feet and suspends 40 feet over Arroyo Grande Creek. It is the only swinging bridge in California. Take heed in walking the bridge because bouncing is part of the experience, especially if a cyclist crosses.
Santa Manuela Schoolhouse
After crossing the Swinging Bridge, visit the one-room Santa Manuela Schoolhouse built in 1901. Located initially near Lopez Lake, the schoolhouse was used until 1957. Since then, the schoolhouse has moved twice and has resided at its current location since 1999. Behind the schoolhouse is the Barn, the South County Historical Society’s Museum Annex. Inside you'll find historical vehicles and printing presses.
Creek Walk and Roosters are a Must on Your Arroyo Grande Weekend Getaway
Taking a pleasant stroll along the creek is a great way to get some fresh air and acquaint yourself with the Arroyo Grande roosters. Not even folklore knows the origins of the roosters that liven the local color of the town. Did someone abandon them by the creek? Whatever the story, they are now part of the local fauna. With a population of 25 to 50 roosters, including the hens, you are bound to see a few hanging out around town. You might even be lucky to observe them stopping traffic during their crossings, the cause of rush hour traffic in this small community. But, don't let your feathers get ruffled, just go with the flow and enjoy the entertainment these fowl bring to the town—they are part of the charm.
Arroyo Grande Farmers Market
Every Saturday in the Village along the creek, from noon to 2:30 pm, farmers congregate to sell local produce. Of course, the stars of the show are the roosters who come for lettuce and fresh veggies; however, the Arroyo Grande Farmers market wouldn't be the same without them. Even local artists create works of art to honor these town mascots.
Roosters Around Town
When it's time for an afternoon refreshment, be sure to stop in at Rooster Creek Tavern, the local watering hole that takes its name from the local crowing and swooning social entertainers. While sipping an Ol’ Town Flirt Martini, enjoy a Rooster Burger or Rooster Nachos.
In the heart of Arroyo Grande Village, you'll find the Timbre Winery, the product of founder and winemaker, Josh Klapper’s love of wine. As a former sommelier at Sona Restaurant in Los Angeles, Josh got hooked on the winemaking bug after meeting the likes of Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist. Josh’s first winery was La Fenêtre Wines in Santa Barbara. In 2016 it became Timbre Winery. Josh sources his grapes from vineyards mainly in the Santa Maria Valley.
Josh moved to Arroyo Grande from Los Angeles in 2010. His current tasting room came to fruition in 2017, when an old 1910 craftsman house became available. Before the winery took over the location, therapists used the place for couples therapy. Josh kids that from couples therapy, people now imbibe in wine therapy.
The word timbre refers to the quality of a musical note, which sounds different depending on individual voices or instruments. Transferring the concept to wine, every winemaker expresses their notes on a terroir differently. In this case, the timbre is Josh’s voice on his winemaking. As you sip each glass of wine, you create your own experience to add color, notes, or timbre to the wine—think of it as a stereophonic experience that surrounds the wine.
Sitting out on Timbre’s patio, you will enjoy wines with a musical theme like Lead Vocal, The Rhythm, The Headliner, Grand Symphony Melody, Rare Grove, or The Classics. My favorite was the Rare Grove #6, a Cabernet Franc from the Santa Barbara Highlands.
Wines in Arroyo Grande Valley AVA
The Arroyo Grande Valley AVA is one of four AVAs in San Luis Obispo County. Established in 1990, this AVA is located in the southern portion of San Luis Obispo County and predominantly grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. You can also find Grüner Veltliner, Grenache, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
There are numerous wineries you can enjoy as you explore Arroyo Grande. I enjoyed Talley Vineyards.
Talley, an important agricultural family and pioneers of the Arroyo Grande Valley, is a household name in Arroyo Grande. After visiting with Brian Talley, I understood the importance this family had on grape growing and general agriculture in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Talley grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with other varieties. In the farming community, they are known for their cilantro, cauliflower, and Napa cabbage, to name a few.
About the Talley Family
The Talley’s venture in the Arroyo Grande Valley began in 1948 when Brian’s grandfather, Oliver Talley, a tenant farmer, started Talley Farms. Brian’s parents suggested purchasing land in the area for farming. From 1966 to 1990, they acquired acreage that is now the basis of both Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards. Brian’s parents had the idea of growing grapes in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Edna Valley was already growing grapes, so it was easy to see that vines would do well in this topography. Their grape adventure began in 1982 on a hillside property where growing vegetables was not viable. At first, they just sold grapes, but in 1986 the Talley's produced their first vintage of Talley Vineyards wine.
Brian is a third-generation farmer and a second-generation winemaker. He started as a general manager in 1991 and today is president of both Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards. He was also a co-founder of the World of Pinot Noir event held every year in Santa Barbara—a primo event for Pinot lovers not to be missed.
The Talley Family Cookbook
Brian Talley is a serious home cook. In his not-so-spare time, he wrote a book, Our California Table, Celebrating the Seasons With The Talley Family. The net proceeds from the book sales go to the Talley’s 501 (c)(3) charity, a fund for vineyard and farm workers. The book celebrates the cuisine of the region.
Talley Vineyards Wine Tasting
Visiting the Talley Tasting room, you are immediately immersed in the winery's ambiance. As you walk in, you are greeted with a glass of wine—a welcome that sets the mood. You can either sit in the lovely courtyard or inside, overlooking a view of the valley. My favorite wines at the tasting were the Grüner Veltliner and the cool climate Grenache.
Breakfast at Café Andreini
During your Arroyo Grande weekend getaway, I recommend starting your day with breakfast at Café Andreini. Established in 1996 by Denise Andreini, a native of Arroyo Grande, the Café started as a local coffee house. Between different variations of avocado toast and the breakfast burritos, you cannot go wrong. The secret to Café Andreini's yummy avocado toast is the drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Being gluten-free, I choose the avocado toast sans the bread. In this case, I got a double dose of avocado and loved every bite.
Dinner at Mason Bar and Kitchen
Mason Bar and Kitchen is a local hangout, designed to be country-chic by utilizing metal, stone, and refurbished wood from local barns. The restaurant aims to attract the locals with a warm and inviting place to relax as you dine. You immediately feel the warmth as you step inside and view the double-sided fireplace. The restaurant is situated in a 100-year-old building that once housed a tackle store and then a feed shop before becoming a market. The exterior has a mural that tells the history of Arroyo Grande and commemorates its agricultural community. Foodwise, the restaurant's goal is to pay respect to the agricultural community; therefore, the focus is on local food from organic farms and artisan producers.
One must try the Lobster Dogs with Creole Remoulade as a starter—it is a winner. For an entrée, consider the Kurobuta Pork Chop, which brines for 24 hours. The restaurant also caters to those with dietary issues. Some favorite dishes include roasted sweet potatoes and smoked carrots. I guarantee you won't leave this restaurant hungry.
Mason Bar and Kitchen also has a full bar with more than 200 spirits. The wine list is extensive, with a large selection of by-the-glass options.
The Agrarian Hotel—A Great Place to Stay During Your Arroyo Grande Weekend Getaway
As you come to the end of Arroyo Grande Village, you will find the creature comforts of the Agrarian Hotel, the perfect way to end your travel day. Part of the Best Western Signature Collection, the Craftsman-style hotel is relatively new. Tastefully designed and appointed, the spacious rooms offer comfortable rooms with Tempurpedic beds, enticing me to return for another stay. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, a pool, and a fitness room. The hotel is Leed Certified, the first in the area to have this designation.
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Making the Most of Your Arroyo Grande Weekend Getaway
From its agricultural beginnings to its eclectic village atmosphere, Arroyo Grande is a quaint and charming hamlet waiting for you to discover. Full of character and history, you'll find this town to be a gem of the Central Coast and San Luis Obispo County. From roosters to top-notch wineries, your Arroyo Grande weekend getaway won't disappoint. Check out Wander to plan your next weekend getaway to California or beyond and for more of our favorite California wines.