Captivating Central Coast

Friends, this past week we took a quick trip to the Central Coast, and you know we tasted some absolutely incredible wines along the way! This is an area where we could spend weeks…months…years… Well, you get the point. We took a very brief look at the region giving you a basic overview to start your curiosity. First, let’s take a look at what we drank, and then dig into a brief recap about the area where those grapes are grown, and some of the particular grapes we tasted. 

What We Drank

Alta Colina 2017 GSM, Adelaida District
Smoked berry, cardamom, sweet, smoky, spicy, floral, berry, sweet/smoky/spice on the palate, fig and spice on the finish
Pairings: BBQ, short ribs, bleu/roquefort cheese
These are stunning wines crafted as part of a beautiful family and business! Alta Colina is owned and operated by Bob, Lynn, and their daughter, Maggie. They’ve built an incredible operation, planting vines on 31 of their 130 acre ranch, and hiring an incredibly talented winemaker – Molly Longborg. All wines are made from grapes grown on their ranch, using organic farming practices to ensure the long-term sustainability of the land. I love supporting family businesses that celebrate female leadership and craftsmanship, especially when they produce such stunning wines and clearly care for each piece of the process. 

Clos Solène 2018 Harmonie GSM, Paso Robles
Strawberry, Raspberry, Pomegranate, hints of white pepper on finish, fresh green bell pepper/herbaceous, young but beautifully balanced
Pairings: Duck or lamb with fresh thyme and dried rosemary, herb de Provence
Clos Solene pays homage to the heritage of owner/winemaker Guillaume and his partner and wife, Solène. Growing up in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, the cultivation of beautiful grapes and making of stunning wine make an impression on Guillaume from a young age. Eventually moving to the US, Guillaume and Solène started Clos Solène in 2007, and purchased their property in 2017 (formerly Pipestone Vineyards). Guillaume and Solène are committed to implementing sustainable farming practices with premium production of wine. Their 28 acres are filled with 10 different varietals and 16 different clones. In addition, they purchase grapes from other vineyards to round out their portfolio. 

Herman Story 2018 Syrah/Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon
Berry pie, jam, sweet, baked plums, hints of pepper, vanilla/leather tobacco on palate
Pairings: Pulled pork sliders with bleu cheese and pickled red onion, dried meat, salted duck, dark chocolate, grilled mushrooms

The Central Coast

The Central Coast has a history like much of California. Spanish Missionaries were the first to settle in the area and cultivate grapes (largely the Mission varietal) along the coast in the 1700s. While vines continued to be planted and wine continued to be made, the Central Coast didn’t see real growth until 200 years later in the 1960s and 1970s. A “Wine Renaissance” began to happen in the large region and a shift in focus to producing quality wines with an attention to crafting interesting blends. 

The San Andreas Fault and the variety of geographic landscapes contribute to the diverse soils. In addition, the Maritime climate provides cooling breezes from the coast that ensure the grapes have optimal growing conditions. Wines from the Central Coast can often be typified as being well-structured wines that aren’t too heavy, maintaining complexity and nuance. 

As a region, the Central Coast is quite large and complex (similar to the North Coast). With over 40 AVAs, Sub-AVAs, and sub-sub-AVAs, there is a lot of ground to cover, and even more wines! Because of that, we decided to focus our attention on a few particular regions. 

Santa Cruz Mountains

Though not technically a part of the Central Coast AVA, the Santa Cruz mountains are surrounded by the Central Coast AVA. At the convergence of the Coastal Mountains, Pacific Ocean, and the San Francisco Bay, this region sits on top of an ancient seabed which provides a unique sense of minerality characteristic in may of the wines. 

Monterey County

Over 20% of all Chardonnay produced in California comes from Monterey County, a large area (over 100 miles long) wth 10 sub-AVAs within it. In the Northern part of the County, grapes like Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay thrive. In the Southern part of the County, the warmer climate means more full-bodied varietals tend to be grown, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone varietals. 

Santa Barbara County

Whereas most designated growing regions in the Central Coast has a North-South orientation, Santa Barbara County runs East-West in orientation. This takes advantage of the beautiful coastal breezes and fog, cooling the grapes, which often leads to higher acidity and brighter flavors. 

Paso Robles

With over 40,000 vineyard acres and over 60 varietals, Paso Robles is a beautifully complex area of the Central Coast, known in particular for Rhône-style wines and unique blends. Committed to honing and refining their craft, Paso Robles vineyards and wineries have amended and revised their AVA multiple times to ensure the most accurate distinction of the area. The area has received multiple national awards in the past decade, drawing consumers there as not just a wine destination, but a travel destination. 

Paso Robles is known for having more extreme diurnal shifts than any place in California – warmer days and cooler nights. The diverse geography that typifies the entire Central Coast is even more pronounced in Paso Robles, including river bottoms, rolling hills, flatlands, mountains and more, with the most notable markers of the Santa Lucia Range, Salinas River, and Templeton Gap. With such diverse geography, its not surprise that there’s over 30 types of soil with lots of rocks (volcanic, granite, marine, and more).

The Grapes

Grenache: thought to have originated in Spain (called Garnacha), buds early but ripens late, thrives in hot  + dry conditions, higher sugar (aka higher alcohol), low-medium acidity and tannin

Syrah: tends to change more based on where its grown and can grow in a variety of places, French in origin, dark skinned, low-medium acidity, high tannin and alcohol, common characteristics include black pepper, smoke, lavender, and dried fruits

Mourvèdre: Originated in Spain (Catalunya) and also known as Monastrell and Mataro, ideal in warm weather with “adequate” irrigation, late to bud and very late to ripen, small thick skinned berries, typically higher in tannin, often used in blends to add structure

All of the AVAs

San Francisco Bay

  • Lamorinda
  • Livermore Valley
  • Santa Clara Valley
    • Pacheco Pass

York Mountain

Monterey County

  • Arroyo Seco
  • Hames Valley
  • San Bernabe
  • San Lucas
  • Santa Lucia Highlands

San Benito County

  • Cienega Valley
    • Lime Kiln Valley
  • Paicines

Carmel Valley

Chalone

Paso Robles

  • Adelaida District
  • Creston District
  • El Pomar District
  • Paso Robles Estrella District
  • Paso Robles Geneseo District
  • Paso Robles Highlands District
  • Paso Robles Willow Creek District
  • San Juan Creek
  • San Miguel District
  • Santa Margarita Ranch
  • Templeton Gap District

Arroyo Grande Valley

Edna Valley

San Luis Obispo 

Santa Maria Valley

Santa Ynez Valley

  • Ballard Canyon
  • Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
  • Los Olivos District
  • Sta Rita Hills

Santa Barbara County

Mt. Harlan

San Antonio Valley

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