History and Land
Not yet as popular as the northerly neighbours in Napa and Sonoma counties, tasting rooms in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Monterey wine-growing regions are not as crowded, making them some of California’s best-kept secrets for wine aficionados. There’s also plenty of excellent Californian cuisine, thanks to an active organic farming community and innovative chefs along the coast.
Stretching from San Francisco down to Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, the Central Coast boasts 350 miles of breathtaking coastline, from the rugged cliffs of the north to the sandy beaches of the south. Alongside this unspoiled coastline lie rolling vineyards and golden hills. The towns are notable for their classic architecture, history, fantastic dining and shopping. There are plenty of outdoor activities on offer including surfing, kayaking, biking and fishing. The cuisine is diverse, from fresh seafood restaurant in harbour towns to sophisticated bistros to casual barbeques.
Grapes here, including the mission variety, are amongst the oldest in the state, planted by Franciscan monks as they made their way north on El Camino Real (now Highway 101) in the late 1700s.
The Blue Grand Canyon
One of the world’s deepest marine canyons, and the only one that directly impacts a major wine growing region, the Blue Grand Canyon is hidden beneath the surface of Monterey Bay – sixty miles long and two miles deep. The canyon provides a climatic pathway that connects the deep sea to the wine regions of Monterey, manifested through fog, wind, lack of rain through the growing season, and moderate temperatures.
San Luis Obispo – SLO – County
Midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the San Luis Obispo wine region is well known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenach, Viognier and Zinfandel amongst others. The marine influence of the Pacific Ocean provides a mild summer and warm autumn, resulting in a long growing season. Combined with the regions rocky volcanic soils, these conditions produce fruit with intense character and complex flavours.
Santa Barbara County
100 miles north of Los Angeles, the east-west orientation of the coastal mountains forms valleys opening directly to the ocean, and this allows the flow of fog and sea breezes to shape distinct microclimates, perfect for the cultivation of classic grape varieties. Cool and moderate temperatures toward the west change to warm days and cool nights to the east. The region is one of the coolest viticultural areas in California, meaning that the fruit has an unusually long ‘hang time’ on the vine, allowing it to fully develop the acids, flavours and tannins needed to produce wines of character.
WHO IS WHO
Sideways (2004) – one of the most famous movies about wine ever made. Road trip through Santa Barbara wine country, staring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church. 5 Oscar nominations, won one.
The Central Coast has served as the backdrop for a number of well known movies, including Basic Instinct, Of Mice and Men, Anna Karenina, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Graduate and National Velvet.