A key player in mid-July’s Central Coast Wine Classic, Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa is also the preferred accommodation during the highly anticipated four-day festival. Perched on a bluff with panoramic views of Shell Beach, it reflects the Classic’s spirit of relaxed elegance and culinary excellence. Sixty fully equipped, condo-style suites provide shelter at this four diamond boutique property. Designed as a luxury retreat for travelers exploring the surrounding wine country, no need goes untended, be it directions to wineries, attentive poolside service, or treatments at the serene La Bonne Vie spa. Sustenance is in the expert hands of Executive Chef, Maegen Loring, Executive Chef, Jason Moss and Director of Food and Beverage, Todd Brown, whose cuisine and wine list merit a stay on their own.
On Friday, June 12, Loring, Moss and Brown are responsible for pulling off two of the Classic’s major events simultaneously. Chef Moss will preside over the Justin Winemaker Dinner, at Dolphin Bay’s Lido Restaurant, while Chef Loring handles the VIP Outdoor Winery Dinner Dance & Paulée at Avila Beach Golf Resort (menus forthcoming). Brown oversees coordinating wine pairings for the menus.
Attendees are in for a good time with this trio in charge. Not only are they hospitality industry vets, their glee at bringing people together through food and wine is infectious. At Lido’s recent Paulée du Rhône, there was raucous laughter and table hopping, spurred on by Brown’s pouring of select Rhône-style wines and Loring’s killer fried chicken buffet.
Brown modestly attributes the success of Dolphin Bay’s food and beverage program to owner, Rick Loughead, who gave his staff four-star standards and a budget, then stepped back to let their creativity reign.
Since each has a great love and knowledge of wine (Loring was smitten as a young chef in Canada by her first sip of Condrieu, while Brown’s gateway bottle was an Alban syrah), they’ve used their freedom to increase the number of wine dinners. A chef’s pairing menu that changes quarterly has been added to the regular menu, along with a series of smaller, more intimate winemaker dinners held in the penthouse. The chefs are also passing on their expertise with a new lineup of cooking demonstrations.
Another strength of their combined force is that Loring and Brown both have deep roots in the community. As a former caterer and owner of San Luis Obispo’s The Park Restaurant (closed), and now The Neon Carrot, Loring has had decades to forge relationships with local purveyors. She is known for sourcing the freshest organic and sustainably farmed products available. Brown’s career has been in the Central Coast restaurant scene, starting at 8 dipping soft serve in his parents’ Dairy Queen, and working his way up. A five-year stint as manager at 1865 Restaurant (closed) allowed him to develop strong ties with the area’s best winemakers.
Especially impressive is the wine list Brown’s team is building. He presents it with the proud grin of a kid bursting to show off his best wheelie. It has grown from a hodgepodge of 200 odd bottles, to 500 selections handily organized alphabetically by Old and New World regions. Brown explains, “I’m going for a list that has breadth and depth. The concept is to remain true to local winemakers, but since we have guests who come from all over the world, I really want to have wines that represent the best of all regions. For example, Napa cab is really, really good, so we want to have a good representation of Napa cabs. I think our Central Coast pinot noirs are exceptional, so we have a strong showing of them. But we certainly want to have an albariño from Rias Baixas; we certainly want to have tempranillo and garnacha from Spain–wines that show typicity of region. Going forward, I’m shooting for the two glass Wine Spectator award, which means increasing our verticals and vintage wines.”
Reserve your stay at Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa here and register here for Central Coast Wine Classic.