I am a true believer in Central Coast wines. My only problem is that their price tags tend to emulate their big brothers up in Napa and Sonoma. Nevertheless, let’s look a little deeper in the central coast.
Wine Folly says: The Central Coast is a large encompassing American Viticultural Area (AVA) that extends from the south of San Francisco all the way to Santa Barbara, California. The region contains 40 AVAs including Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey, and Santa Barbara and each of these sub-regions specializes in different types and expressions of wine. While the Central Coast may not have the same namesake as Napa Valley, it does happen to produce some of California’s most intriguing, up-and-coming wines. To explore each region, their top-performing varieties, and what makes each area unique, we’ll take you on a virtual driving tour through Central Coast’s wine scene.
As a whole, the Central Coast is planted with 90,300 acres (36.500 hectares) of vineyards. Currently, the most widely planted variety is Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Syrah are also quite prevalent.
The majority of the vineyards can be found in the valleys that open up to the Pacific. The benefit of being along the coast is that the cold, moist air gets pulled in and creates a layer of morning cloud cover which reduces temperatures and sun exposure on the grapes. This is why cool climate varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir excel in the coastal regions of the Central Coast AVA.
Specifically, I am focused on the central coast: San Luis Obispo: Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley are the 2 AVAs in SLO that produce outstanding, rich Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Paso Robles: One of the most exciting regions for Syrah and other Rhône varieties on the West Coast. The area also produces a great deal of pocketbook-friendly, smoky, and satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon.
I will bet you did not know this:
Paso Robles is a wine region for the wild-hearted. The town El Paso de Robles (which means Pass of the oak trees) was co-founded by Kentucky outlaws Frank and Jesse James’ uncle Drury around 1869. Today, Paso Robles is still considered by many as the wine industry’s wild west, characterized by that same rule breaking diversity and innovative spirit in which the town was founded.
“Paso Robles is the wild west of California wine.”
Factoid: Paso Robles is California’s fastest growing AVA. Since 2000, the number of bonded wineries has grown from 50 to over 200, driven by growth in ownership by small family-owned producers.
More Wine Folly:
Paso Robles makes an amazing diversity of wines, but which ones should you be seeking out? The key styles of Paso Robles wine to pay attention to can be summed up into 5 categories:
- Zinfandel and blends
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends
- Rhône Blends including Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, as well as Viognier
- Cal-Italians including Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera
- Innovative Blends – non-traditional wine blends
Basic Taste Profile: Opulent, sweet-fruited red wines with a plush mid-palate, high alcohol levels, and a suprisingly firm backbone of acidity that will make you sit up straight in your seat. Paso Robles wines are typically enjoyed in their youth, although the best ones do stand the test of time.More about Paso cabs: The Paso style strives to Big and Bold, making more richly textured, opulent, ready-drinking Cabs and Bordeaux blends with flavors of anise, cola, peppercorns, finishing with textured minerality and bright acidity. Contrary to popular belief, although the heritage of Paso Robles lies with Zinfandel, today over 55% of all vines planted are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux Varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.) Originally planted in 1974 by “the Godfather of Paso”, Gary Eberle, Cabernet Sauvignon quickly found its home in this warm climate region.
Whatever you believe, and whatever you drink, I strongly urge you to give the central coast wines an in-depth tasting. Why not visit? We are headed here today, both to get out of the Valley heat, and enjoy the food and wine on the coast.