California Central Coast Wine Region

Central Coast Wine Region

Two and a half hours from the Central Valley is the ever expanding Central Coast wine region, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The region includes Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and even as far south as Santa Barbara. Vines were planted by the Franciscan monks in the late 1790s and were tended to via the many California Missions that doted the region.

According to Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance’s, commercial winemaking was introduced to the area in the late 1870s:

“Indiana rancher Andrew York began planting vineyards on his 240-acre homestead. Within a few years, he found that the vines were yielding more than he could market, prompting him in 1882 to establish Ascension Winery, known today as York Mountain Winery. The family planted some of the area’s earliest Zinfandel vines, making Paso Robles is famous for this variety. York initially sold his wines in San Luis Obispo and eventually as far away as San Francisco. Today, York Mountain Winery (located within the York Mountain AVA, adjacent to the Paso Robles AVA ) remains the oldest winery in continuous operation in the county.”

Throughout the Central Coast, the distinct soils and weather create unique, world class wines from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.

Today, a wide variety of wines are grown on the Central Coast using grape varietals like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Rhône varieties. The wines have received world class recognition with many wineries winning top awards. I believe that Robert M. Parker Jr.’s prediction in the June 30, 2005, issue of Wine Advocate has already come true: “There is no question that a decade from now, the top viticultural areas of Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills and the limestone hillsides west of Paso Robles will be as well-known as the glamorous vineyards of Napa Valley.”

This is one of three California focus wine regions for Tales of the Cork. The other two are Central Valley Wine Region and the Sierra Nevada Foothills Wine Region. All are within a day trip of my home base of Fresno, Calif. and account for many of America’s most promising wineries and winemakers.

Explore Tales of the Cork with me. Read about the growth and influence of California’s winemakers, merchants and chefs. My goal is to find and develop relationships with them; my hope is to uncover and retell their untold stories. Be sure to leave a comment after each story; share your wine, winemaker or food experience.

Salut!

California’s Central Valley Wine Region

Central Valley Wine Region

As my palate evolved, my interest in Californian wines has expanded, wanting to appreciate both the vintner and the production process. I am interested in sustainable wine practices and am thankful for the wide variety of wine choices. And now with wine regions’ climat changing, I am even more aware of how climate, terroir and winemakers may need to research new techniques in order to produce higher quality wines in the 200-mile long (Tehachapi Mountains south of Bakersfield, north to Fresno County and Madera Wine Trail and up the San Joaquin Valley to the city of Modesto in the north) Central Valley region.

According to the Fresno County Farm Bureau, Thompson grapes are the most common planted variety in vineyards across the Central Valley.

Additionally, Viticulturists in the Valley are exploring additional vine varietal opportunities which provide new options for regional growth. In fact, hot weather grape varieties have been planted similar to the ones in Portugal and Spain.

Hot Central Valley summers have produced wine grapes (Thompson) that are traditionally blended with other grape varietals. However, the Central Valley grown Muscat grape is becoming more popular with the 21-34 age group who enjoy sweet Muscato wine. Yet, some have doubts that this or other varieties can flourish in the inland valley’s hot temperatures. That being said, a 2011 UC-Davis Central Valley wine study shows how the Central Valley‘s value-priced wine production is projected to increase and has developed a niche in the marketplace, especially wines that are meant for blending. While jug wines and table grapes have carried the wine region through the 1980s, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Viognier, Chardonnay and Merlot have also been planted in the last decade. In addition, the Central Valley has developed Tawny port and dessert wines that have gained a reputation outside of the region.

The Central Valley is one of three California focus wine regions for Tales of the Cork. The other two are the Sierra Nevada Foothills Wine Region and the Central Coast Wine Region. All are within a day trip of my home base of Fresno, Calif. and account for many of America’s most promising wineries and winemakers.

Explore Tales of the Cork with me. Read about the growth and influence of California’s winemakers, merchants and chefs. My goal is to find and develop relationships with them; my hope is to uncover and retell their untold stories. Be sure to leave a comment after each story; share your wine, winemaker or food experience.

Salut!