California’s Central Coast Wine Region
Because of its proximity to the ocean, the Central Coast is the perfect place for a midday picnic in the vineyards and a toast on the beach at sunset. Visitors also enjoy major attractions such as Hearst Castle, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and 11 Spanish missions. Thanks to the Santa Ynez Valley’s starring role in the film Sideways, the region’s rolling hills and winding roads have become a popular escape from the chaos of the city. Explore this region where life is always grape!
Regional Description: A Toast to the Coast
The Central Coast is comprised of the counties of Alameda (Livermore Valley), Contra Costa, Monterey, Santa Barbara (Santa Ynez Valley), San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo (Paso Robles), San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Mountains). The region is home to 30 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Although similar in climate and topology, each has a slightly different microclimate which affects the varietals grown and the styles of wines produced.
History: Humble Beginnings
This region's wine heritage dates back more than 200 years ago, when the first vines in the region were planted by Franciscan monks in Carmel (Monterey County) and San Antonio (Santa Barbara). Used primarily for sacramental wines, the grapes were also made into brandy to serve as a revenue source. As gold seekers from all over the world settled into the valleys around Santa Barbara, the agriculture industry blossomed. Vineyard acreage grew dramatically, with most of the vineyards planted with cuttings brought over from Europe. In the past decade the Central Coast expanded and matured into a well-known, world-class wine region. Today growers sell much of their grapes to wineries throughout California, and many premium award-winning wines are produced in the region.
Climate: Microclimates are Key
California’s Central Coast wine region is known for its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The cooling flow resulting from fog and afternoon ocean breezes spilling into coastal valleys allows for a long growing season and the slow, even ripening of varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Conversely, many areas along the Central Coast are geographically protected from these cooling effects. Their warm, dry day-time temperatures are ideal for ripening full-bodied Rhone and Bordeaux varietals of amazing intensity.
Geography: Bottoms Up!
Much of this area between Los Angeles and San Francisco is former ocean bottom. A high concentration of sand and limestone combined with the rocky soils deposited by the runoff from the surrounding mountains create a unique soil composition. Excellent drainage and low nutrition combine to encourage root development, reduced vine growth, a lower water-to-sugar ratio and highly concentrated flavors.
American Viticultural Areas
American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are delimited grape growing areas distinguishable by geographic climatic and historic features - which are sometimes noted on bottles of California wine. AVA boundaries have been delineated in a petition field and accepted by the U.S. Government.