About Central Coast
The region is vast, and climate and soil type vary dramatically, however all areas are tempered by the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean. There are many premium boutique producers, as well as some much larger wineries, closer to the neighbouring Central Valley.
Chardonnay is a star grape in this region, benefitting from the cooling ocean breezes, but Zinfandel is one of the stars here, producing some of its highest quality wines, including the legendary Ridge.
To the north, south of the San Francisco Bay, lies one of California’s most acclaimed wineries, Ridge, situated in the Santa Cruz area. Ridge, and other premium wineries lie in the hills, high above the ocean, and, outside of Napa, produce some of California’s top wines, both from the Cabernet, but also, even more so from the Zinfandel grape.
The north central coast is home to a group of winemakers who have discovered the potential and quality of the Syrah grape variety, and are colloquially known as ‘the Rhone Rangers’, making exceptional wines from Syrah and other Rhone-based grapes – this includes the maverick Bonny Doon winery.
South of this lies Monterey, arguably the highest quality, cool climate area in the region; the cold ocean air and exposed winds of the Bay mean that many grapes struggle to ripen. This large area, which also covers Salinas valley, is where the top quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noir wines are produced.
Continuing southwards, and almost half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, lies San Obispo County, which is home to the premium, large Paso Robles area, and also to smaller Edna valley, an Arroyo Grande areas.
Edna valley and Arroyo Grande lie in the southern end and are great cool climate areas, suited to Chardonnay.
The San Obispo County was first discovered by Spanish Missionaries in the 19th century, and was originally producing hot, alcoholic, brash Californian reds. The focus on terroir, microclimate and top quality winemaking skills, have turned it into a premium wine making region, with superb Zinfandel and also Rhone blend wines, which have richness, yet freshness and depth.
Santa Barbara County lies at the south of the Central Coast region, and includes the cool climate Santa Ynez and Santa Maria sub-regions. This area came into its own in the last 50 years, when the area was discovered and vineyards sprung up in the 60s and 70s. Santa Maria gets less sun than most areas in California, yet it is prime location, with vineyards owned by Beringer, Mondavi and Kendall-Jackson; some of the region’s highest quality Chardonnays come from here.
Santa Ynez is a very wealthy area, and produces both top quality Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels and Syrah, but is most noted for its balanced, complex and ultrafine Pinot Noirs. Yet again, despite the proximity to the sunshine city of Los Angeles, the fog and sea breezes combine to provide the ideal microclimate in this area.