2018-04-01 / Wine Notes

Coasting Through California Wines

Robert D. Richards, CSW

If your bottle of California wine sports a label with the appellation “Central Coast,” you’ll know one thing for sure: The grapes were grown somewhere within a 90,000-acre swath. That’s how many acres are planted with wine grapes in the Central Coast region.

The Central Coast is an expansive appellation that runs from just south of San Francisco Bay down the coast to Santa Barbara with a whole lot of great winegrowing regions — and sub-regions — in between.

The breezes off the Pacific Ocean moderate the temperatures and the marine layer (typical morning and evening cloud cover) keeps the sun from thoroughly baking the grapes. Warm sunny days and cool nights provide a rich environment for wine grapes to thrive. Moving inland, the temperatures rise and create the right climate for the heartier reds.

The cooler parts of the region, like the Santa Cruz Mountains, are the perfect host for Pinot Noir grapes. The warmer areas, such as the Santa Ynez Valley, produce some interesting Cabernets and Merlots. Rhône varietals like Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre can be found in Paso Robles.

Much of the region is planted with Chardonnay grapes, again taking advantage of the cooler ocean influences. Santa Barbara County, including Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, produces some world-class Chardonnay.

In short, the Central Coast has something for every wine lover. And the region offers more than just wine.

A picturesque coastline, boutique shops, noteworthy restaurants and artist enclaves (plus a few surfer dudes) are just some of the things that attract visitors to the area. Stopping by some wineries in the Central Coast while soaking in the scenery along the way have all the makings of a perfect vacation. An added benefit: It’s not as crowded as Napa and Sonoma. •SCM

Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2014
(#74097, $18.99)
A creamy-textured Chardonnay with notes of oak and a rich citrus base.
The Possessor Red Blend
Paso Robles 2013

(#20634, $29.99)
A blend of mostly Cabernet with Merlot and Petite Sirah, this rich wine exhibits characteristics of black cherry, plum and tobacco.
Foxen Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills 2013
(#73546, $34.99)
Notes of black cherry, plum and a hint of black tea round out this Central Coast mainstay.

Robert D. Richards, CSW, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and has passed the first-level certification of the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.

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