With a solid reputation for producing fantastic wine, both these regions have become synonymous with California wine. Cabernets and Bordeaux varietals from Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are in high demand. Coupled with the tenacity and marketing know-how of California wine pioneers and its present-day proprietors, Napa and Sonoma have become household words.
But there is an equally important California wine region-- in both quality and size--that is unbeknownst to many wine drinkers. And it’s being transformed by talented vintners into one of our country’s premier wine regions.
Meet the Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA)--the state’s largest appellation with about 100,000 acres under vine within a 250 mile stretch along the coastline. It’s about to become your new best (wine) friend.
Spanning from Santa Barbara County in the south to the San Francisco Bay Area in the north, the Central Coast includes portions of six counties, as well as forty smaller appellations that share the same cooling influence from the Pacific Ocean. And while no signature grape distinguishes the area, more than half of the region is planted with Chardonnay along with every other international grape varietal.
Some argue the lack of an identity based on a single grape is a detriment to the region—I believe this is the Central Coast’s strength! It’s where we are encouraged to explore flavors beyond the conventional. Where we savor a climate that allows for a multitude of grapes to thrive. And, thank goodness, where we can find amazing values!
So, let’s embark on a virtual tour of California’s “other wine country!”
Starting in the north, at the historic, elevation-based Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation, try the 2013 Domaine Eden Chardonnay ($30.00, Morganellis). From the cool, but sunny Mount Eden Vineyards--one of the state’s original “boutique” wineries and only 15 miles from the Pacific--this wine is Old World in style with a citrusy, long, finish.
Let’s travel south to the Santa Lucia highlands in Monterey County, also considered one of California’s premier cool growing regions. Complex and refreshing wines abound in this region, due to the long growing season. Sample the bold 2014 Syrah from Luli Wines ($21.99, Morganellis) and discover its aromas and flavors of blackberry and pepper, with freshly acidic finish on the palate.
Half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles has become one of the most exciting regions for Rhone varieties on the West Coast due its much hotter, Mediterranean climate. Try the 2013 Grenache from Tablas Creek ($43.00, Morganellis) and enjoy black fruit and sweet spice on the nose, savory flavors on the palate, and a lingering finish. For a vivid, white Rhone varietal experience, sample Cass Winery’s 2015 Rousanne ($21.99, Morganellis). The rich, spicy, orchard fruit aromas on the nose and palate should inspire you to become a “Rhone Ranger.”
Traveling south to the Santa Maria AVA in Santa Barbara County we encounter a region more intermediate in climate and a prevalence towards warm climate grapes. Try Cambria’s 2013 Benchbreak Pinot Noir ($19.99, Morganellis) for a more lush example than you will find in cooler regions. Thicker-skinned grape fans will love its dark purple color, black fruit flavors, and spicy finish. For a unique, New World spin on a Loire Valley classic, try Lieu Dit’s 2016 Melon ($19.99, Morganellis). Tart apple flavors become more savory in the long finish, offering a wonderful alternative to more commonplace white wines.
Our Central Coast journey ends in the inland area of the Santa Ynez Valley where Napa lovers will find bold renditions of more traditional Bordeaux varietals. Noticeably hotter temperatures give rise to rich wines, such as Lucas and Lewellen’s 2008 Petit Verdot ($28.99, Morgenllis). For half the price of a Cab from its northern counterpart, this wine delights with aromas and sumptuous palate of black fruit, chocolate, and caramel. The lingering finish will reward you for having discovered a truly intriguing region!
Do you want to learn more about “The Coast?” Join Wine Educator and Columnist Erlinda A. Doherty, CSW, WSET Level 3--aka. "The Wine Evangelist"--as she guides you through a curated selection of this emerging area on 20 Sept. 2017 from 6-8PM at the Let’s Cook Studio. Learn about familiar varietals, explore unique vintages, and enjoy delicious fare from Chef John Militello.
Buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/california-central-coast-wine-seminar-tickets-37334177530?aff=utm_source%3Deb_email%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dnew_event_email&utm_term=eventurl_text or check out www.thevinicola.com.