Region Wine Bar is San Luis Obispo’s latest wine tasting experience that pours wine with a twist | Flavor | San Luis Obispo

It’s hard for the sun not to soak into the Region Wine Bar’s downtown San Luis Obispo space. A large archway welcomes light as well as visitors eager to sip local wines. But as the sun’s rays fall on the wine bar’s jade-toned countertops and plush cream-colored sofas, all eyes fall on the row of sleek wine coolers with four dispensing nozzles gushing from each. them.

One by one, customers grab a wine glass hanging from the wall, insert a white card bearing the letter “R” into the cooler, press a button and slide their glass under the dispenser. Seconds later, ruby ​​red wine flowed from the WineStation, much to everyone’s amusement on June 17.

“It puts the control and power of the wine tasting experience in the hands of the consumer. We have people who want to come in and email after work and have a glass of wine and no one is going to bother you. , all the way to Google executives who want to know every clone that’s in pinot and have an elevated experience,” said Region co-founder Johan Eide. “We can touch both, which is really unique in a wine bar. We feel approachable, but we can back it up with knowledge of wine.”

Region got its start in June 2020 when Eide and co-founder Kerry Thedorf opened the first bar in Sebastopol, Sonoma County. After weathering the pandemic and wildfires, the duo opened counterpart Downtown SLO in April 2022.

Eide described the region as a bridge that connects winemakers and drinkers – and his brand name derives from the company being “a hub to a region through wine”.

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  • Photo courtesy of the local wine bar
  • POUR ABUNDANTLY The first types of self-service wine stations first appeared in Europe, but these machines were subject to hygiene problems. Region SLO’s Johan Eide credited Napa Technology, which created WineStations, with redesigning the wine dispensers.

The SLO region has partnered with 25 wineries who all promote it as their go-to tasting room, as most of them are small production winemakers who do not have their own tasting rooms. Each week, one of them becomes the region’s star winery of the week and enjoys complete creative freedom on how to present its wines. Eide said it could look like hosting pick-up parties and pairing events or offering a flight of wine featured on the menu. On June 17, Region spotlighted the Paso Robles-based winery dilécta and recommended the Phoenix 2019, a soft and sparkling blanc de noir, a perfect match for the sunny terrace.

Wineries like dilécta showcase the diversity of SLO County’s myriad American Vineyard Areas (AVAs), Eide said. He then pointed to a contemporary, earth-toned map of SLO County AVAs hanging on the wall of the wine bar.

“A county or wine region is usually divided into AVAs. Essentially, the climate or terrain is so different that it’s going to produce a very distinct wine,” Eide added. “We are technically in the SLO coast, which was just approved this year [as an AVA], which is an important milestone for SLO. Just from here, head uphill to Atascadero, Santa Margarita, Creston, Highlands District… it’s day and night. There’s a nighttime difference of 20 degrees every night.”

Eide then moved his hand to the right, pointing to the distinctive selfish stations, the earliest iterations of which appeared in bars across Europe. At Region, customers receive a card with an open line of credit that they swipe for service. WineStations then dispense 1-ounce tasters, 2.5-ounce half-glass measures, and 5-ounce full pours. The cost ranges from $2.50 to $15, depending on the bottle and pour size. Soon the machines will also carry NFC tags so customers can easily scan the code with their phone and learn more about the wineries.

“I call it the adult froyo shop!” Bailey Matthews, area wine guide and fourth-year viticulture student at Cal Poly, said with a laugh.

Matthews is one of 13 staff in the SLO region who receive industry-leading wine courses through company policy.

“We pay for all of our staff to visit our wineries. We believe in educating our staff. They go to see firsthand who the winemaker is, where they source their fruit. When they’re here in store, they don’t memorize the tasting notes,” Eide said. “It creates that personal connection that wine talks so much about. It’s the #1 thing people bring to parties. If they can feel they’re part of something cool or hard to find or special, we’ve done our job. There’s so much authenticity here that there just isn’t a platform in SLO.”

Currently, the region is working with hotel partners to add food to the wine list. Unlike a traditional restaurant, Region sells wines at the same price as that offered at the wineries themselves, with the profits going to them.

Eide, with his roots in mechanical engineering and winemaking as a hobby, wanted to fill the gap in the wine industry that disadvantages small production wineries.

“It’s really, really hard to compete with really big producers who can have a $5 million tasting room, a lot of spent advertising, a free flight if you come and visit their vineyard. Every vineyard tries to keep you there. longer and longer for the tasting experience. Here we’re trying to get that middle ground. They pay us a monthly fee, and that’s a tiny fraction of what the cost would have been to pull it off themselves , but they all get the same exposure,” he said.

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TAP IN Region customers can choose different pour sizes from 50 rotating wines, all by swiping a tasting room card with an open line of credit.  - PHOTO COURTESY OF REGIONAL WINE BAR

  • Photo courtesy of the local wine bar
  • PRESS ON Guests in the area can choose different pour sizes from 50 rotating wines, all by swiping a tasting room card with an open line of credit.

Eide notices shifts in the market and customer behavior – from the demographic transformation of customers into a younger, college-aged crowd, seeking a grander consumer experience, to the slow dismantling of the old guard.

“For me, the #1 thing that stood out was in Sonoma County, before COVID, seven years in a row, tasting room visits were down but tourism was up. hui don’t identify with the traditional experience of tasting rooms, so how do you bring the wine to the customer and to the place they frequent, while maintaining this intimacy? said Eide. “I think the tasting room still has its place, but the traditional thinking of ‘my family’s last name and my tasting room is going to sell my line’ doesn’t cut it anymore.” Δ

If you cannot find Editor-in-Chief Bulbul Rajagopal near the WineStation distributor, contact her at [email protected]

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