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Food-and-wine powerhouse takes the reins at SLO's Central Coast Wines

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The green and purple neon sign fronting Central Coast Wines—known colloquially as CCW—has been a familiar sight along downtown San Luis Obispo's main drag for more than 20 years.

Locals Vaughn and Sasha Taus opened the wine shop and tasting room at 712 Higuera St. in 1998.

A decade later, new owners Bob and Dianna Ritchie of Templeton renovated CCW and cultivated a tight-knit following of wine club members.

When Bob Ritchie passed away in December 2020, and the establishment was put up for sale, many club members held tight—weathering a temporary pandemic-related closure and maintaining their memberships out of respect to the Ritchies. It was Dianna's wish that club members rally behind the new owner.

However, what started out as deference to the Ritchies quickly evolved to admiration and excitement for newcomer Miya Luce, who officially took the helm of CCW in September.

THE PERFECT POUR Store manager Tom Nicholas samples wares at CCW's intimate, 15-seat tasting room. Patrons can order a flight, glass, or bottle of wine, as well as draft or bottled beer. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • THE PERFECT POUR Store manager Tom Nicholas samples wares at CCW's intimate, 15-seat tasting room. Patrons can order a flight, glass, or bottle of wine, as well as draft or bottled beer.

Miya retained store manager Tom Nicholas due to his established relationships and wine expertise, but everything else is about to change.

Originally from Ukraine, Miya's love affair with food and wine runs deep.

"Hospitality has always been a huge part of my Ukrainian upbringing, where the daily culture revolves around cooking and hosting," she said.

"My grandmother made wine for our family consumption and taught me some basics about winemaking, as well as gave me an incredible knowledge of plants and herbs, which helped me later with my sommelier education and understanding sensory evaluation of the wines tasted."

Miya crossed the Atlantic in 2004, fine-tuning her skills at famed New York City establishments such as Minetta Tavern, "working my way up from serving and bartending jobs to creating beverage lists and managing restaurants."

After eight years, Miya moved to Los Angeles, where she received formal sommelier training, designed elevated wine programs, and landed general manager positions at "some of the most ambitious chef-driven concepts in the city," she said.

In 2021, Miya was primed to take her career to the next level. She was also armed with a secret weapon—husband and chef Joshua Luce.

"I have always wanted to be a small-business owner, and finally my dream has come true," Miya said. "As a first-generation immigrant and a female entrepreneur, I couldn't be happier to land on the Central Coast where my husband was born and raised, and it also happens to be this incredible wine country."

GOURMET GRUB Spicy queso, ranchero beans, and fresh herbs top Gold Land BBQ's tri-tip nachos. Rotating specialties will be featured at SLO's Thursday night farmers' market. - PHOTOS BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photos By Cherish Whyte
  • GOURMET GRUB Spicy queso, ranchero beans, and fresh herbs top Gold Land BBQ's tri-tip nachos. Rotating specialties will be featured at SLO's Thursday night farmers' market.

The Luces, of Arroyo Grande, ultimately plan to meld Miya's business with Joshua's culinary project, Gold Land BBQ. The kinks remain to be worked out, but, in the meantime, patrons can experience Gold Land's red-oak-grilled meat specialties at downtown SLO's Thursday farmers' market. Joshua's food stand sits in front of CCW, and guests are welcome to bring the food into the tasting room and pair it with wine or beer.

Joshua's Santa Maria-style barbecue venture follows a decade of experience running kitchens in New York and Los Angeles, most recently as executive chef at Neighbor in Venice Beach.

Joshua said he's "super excited to be back in SLO County after quite some time away."

He invites patrons to track pop-up locations for his mobile barbecue operation online. His signature dishes include prime beef tri-tip, linguiça sausage, and range chicken.

"My goal is to serve the community and bring people together to experience California heritage cooking in authentic settings," he explained. "Gold Land is also a full-service caterer and gets booked privately for all types of occasions."

"We are working on getting a catering permit for our ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) license, which also means that we will be able to do combined events with Gold Land," Miya added.

Gold Land fare isn't the only ace up Miya's sleeve. She also plans to completely revamp and grow inventory, events, and club memberships.

"As far as the direction of the wine store goes, we would like to keep the Central Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area) theme, but give it a fresh perspective," she said.

"We recently started focusing on wineries that practice sustainable, organic, biodynamic farming, as well as natural winemaking."

JOIN THE CLUB CCW's expanding 500-bottle wine collection aims to provide "the largest selection of small-produced wines from the Central Coast AVA," according to proprietor Miya Luce. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • JOIN THE CLUB CCW's expanding 500-bottle wine collection aims to provide "the largest selection of small-produced wines from the Central Coast AVA," according to proprietor Miya Luce.

In the tasting room, Miya will bring back winemaker events, kicking off on Nov. 18, with Wes Hagen of Santa Barbara winery J. Wilkes.

"We are planning on creating other themes for our events, such as tastings of old vintage wines, and tastings for wines from other regions, including international [selections]," Miya added. "We are also entertaining an idea of collaboration with the Cal Poly viticulture program and WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) to host some of their workshops in our space."

Store manager Nicholas, of Morro Bay, is excited about Miya's plans for the store and tasting room.

"She is bringing an energy back into the place, plus a whole lot of new products," Nicholas said.

Nicholas, a wine industry veteran himself, will be the only constant at CCW. His nearly eight years working with the Ritchies were preceded by 12 years immersed in winemaking and production at Napa Valley establishments Miner Family Winery, Cardinale Estate, Hartwell Vineyards, and Groth Vineyards & Winery.

"Seeing Miya bring in all these new products from different sources is fantastic," Nicholas said. "Coming from Los Angeles, she has had exposure to more products and distribution channels than we have here on the Central Coast, so in the store and in the tasting room you are going to see an ever-changing group of products [representing] so much more diversity in terms of styles, types, and brands being poured."

Miya's new wine-club format distributes four bottles for $95 on a monthly or quarterly basis, and prior club formats will be honored for existing members.

"We will hand select hard-to-find small production wines that are of excellent value and quality," Miya explained. "We think our wine club offers a great way to experience wines from the Central Coast AVA without being committed to just one winery or brand." Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte thinks Miya Luce is a ray of light. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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