California’s Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a “super AVA” that consists of multiple smaller AVAs. The Central Coast AVA extends approximately 250 miles from, San Francisco to Santa Barbara, and includes places like Santa Barbara (remember the movie “Sideways”?), Paso Robles, Monterey, and Edna Valley. These areas are known for growing a variety of grapes including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.
The Central Coast has become a popular wine growing region for several reasons. First, many of the AVAs are in areas where the cool ocean air helps moderate temperatures and give grapes time to cool off. This is important as it preserves the grapes acidity as they ripen. If grapes do not have this daily cooling off period, too much natural acidity will be lost by the time they are ripe, resulting in a dull and “flabby” wine. Second, it is economical. Land in this area is less expensive than Napa or Sonoma, but it still provides favorable conditions for both cool and warm climate grapes. The climate and lower cost make this a great region for experimentation with lesser known varietals. Randal Graham, the winemaking pioneer and visionary behind Bonny Doon wines, popularized the growing of Rhone varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Rousanne, etc.) in this area. He is now on a quest to create a grape varietal that is truly unique to California and the evolving climate in the state. His plan is to plant and cross over 2,000 different grape varietals to create a drought resistant grape that will achieve full ripeness during a desired window of time.
Monterey County ranks among the top 5 wine producing counties in the California. The cooler northern part is known for producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The warmer southern end is known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other Rhone varietals.
With flavors of ripe black and blue fruit on a structured acid frame, the Pianetta Estate Syrah demonstrates how the morning fog and daytime heat create a balanced and rich wine.
The Paso Robles AVA was created in 1983. In 2014, it was sub divided into eleven sub AVAs, reflecting the areas soil and climate variations. Paso Robles means “the pass of oaks” in Spanish. It was named for the hillsides of oak trees. Many vineyards are planted on the western side of the hills in order to get more ocean side exposure. Temperatures here can vary as much as 50 degrees between day and evening, keeping grapes from ripening too quickly. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot are the predominant grapes grown here.
A majority of the grapes for the Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon are grown near Templeton Gap, a gap in York Mountain, which allows the ocean breezes to reach 7 miles inland. This area produces wines with expressive cherry and licorice flavors.
The 2015 Game of Thrones Red Blend was shaped by both cooler than normal and warmer than normal periods during the growing season. The overall effect produced concentrated flavors of black berry and black cherry.
Edna Valley is located about 40 miles south of Paso Robles along the coast. The cool ocean air creates a layer of fog that lasts through the morning, keeping the grapes cool. The afternoon sun burns off the fog and provides moderated warmth to help calmly ripen the grapes. This is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Fossil Point Chardonnay exhibits naturally high acidity indicative of a cool-climate Chardonnay. Sunny afternoons allow for the development of gentle tropical fruit flavors.
The cool marine air of Edna Valley helps keep yields low for the Fossil Point Pinot Noir, producing concentrated cherry flavors and distinct floral aromas.
Santa Barbara is distinct for the fact that the coastline and mountains run east-west instead of north-south. This helps pull the cool ocean air further inland. Like other areas within the Central Coast AVA, they are known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and an assortment of Rhone varietals.