Central Coast – from bulk to boutique

Central Coast. Thinking of the region may have you wondering, where exactly is it? How much land does it encompass? Isn’t it for cheap, bulk wine that goes into those jugs on the bottom shelf of the grocery?

Central Coast takes up the land just south of San Francisco to just north of Los Angeles – about 250 miles down the California coast. That’s a lot of land. To be precise, as an AVA (American Viticultural Area), it consists of nearly 4 million acres. Nearly 100,000 of those are planted to wine grapes. And yes, it used to be known for creating mass amounts of not-so-hot grape juice that made some not-so-hot jug wines that were cheap, but not too tasty. But in the past couple of decades, the “boutique” side of the Central Coast has worked to catch up with that “bulk” side.

So what are the “hot” regions of the Central Coast? Here are our favorite Central Coast areas and some¬† Let’s start up north…

Monterey: Name of a county and a town, this area just south of San Francisco Bay is an ideal climate for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You have smaller AVAs like Santa Lucia Highlands (Delicious Pinot!) and Arroyo Seco. Wineries with consistent track records and quality? Bernardus, Hahn, Chalone, Calera, and Bonny Doon.

San Luis Obispo: The county that is home to the growing-in-fame region of Paso Robles, this warmer region is home to Paso Robles (ideal for Zinfandel, Bordeaux and Rhone blends), Edna Valley (luscious Chardonnay) and Arroyo Grande (excellent reds all around). Some to look at include Tablas Creek and Justin.

Santa Barbara: Furthest south, you’ll find Santa Maria Valley. You may think this balmy Southern California area would be good for warm climate grapes,¬† but due to the east-west orientation of the hills surrounding the river, the Pacific air rushes in and keeps those grapes cool, so this area is ideal for Pinot and Chardonnay. Further south you get awesome Syrah & Rhone blends. We are fans of Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Cambria, Fess Parker and Sanford.