California’s Central Coast is truly a wine lover’s dream and offers the opportunity to savor some of the country’s best wine offerings amid one of the most beautiful and peaceful backdrops in the state. It has some of the most impressive terrain anywhere in the United States and whispers of a rustic past.
That rusticity shines through in the wines that come out of the region. Old oak forests and vast hills of fertile vineyards all planted in meticulous rows creating the appellations that will, before long, be dancing on the palates of some of the world’s top wine connoisseurs.
The entire area evokes a sense of adventure. It is a huge area that spans from Santa Barbara all the way to Monterey, comprising what is more or less a third of the coast of California. Ironically, even with so much area, the best wine producers take up a surprisingly small part of it which, for some, only adds to the pleasure of visiting and exploring the numerous vineyards and wineries throughout.
The Central Coast is made up of a number of wine-producing locales, including Santa Barbara, the Santa Lucia Highlands, and Paso Robles. It is worth noting here that not every wine producer offers public tours or tastings, but if you contact them, most are very accommodating of individuals, couples, or small groups by appointment.
The Santa Rita Hills and the Santa Maria Valley
The Santa Rita Hills wineries are close to the towns of Lompoc and Buellton. There are a few wineries that have tasting rooms, but some do not. The Santa Maria Valley vineyards cling to the hillsides framing the valley and represent just a tiny part of the region’s agricultural landscape.
The appellation hosts some timeless varietals with plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay being typical. There is also a wide variety of other grapes grown here, particularly those best suited for growing in cooler climates.
Both the vineyards and wines in this region have won an impressive amount of critical acclaim in a comparatively short expanse of time. Currently, there are approximately 2,100 acres dedicated to Pinot Noir and 500 dedicated to Chardonnay planted here. An additional 140 acres in the Santa Rita Hills are devoted to Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, and a number of other varieties of wine grapes.
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is home to the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande, two of the state’s most picturesque viticultural areas. Wineries and vineyards abound as far as the eye can see.
Paso Robles, located in San Luis Obispo County, boasts one of the Central Coast’s most successful and growing wine industries. The flats make ideal spots for planting so growers take full advantage of the conditions. Paso Robles has a very structured system for planting and growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone, with a number of acres also dedicated to some of the world’s best Chardonnay grapes.
The Santa Lucia Highlands and Carmel
Some of the best wines in Monterey come from here, and it is an integral part of any Central Coast wine journey. The area has approximately 6,000 acres dedicated to the cultivating of Vinifera, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the predominant varietals.
Highlands winegrowers have a reputation for being innovators. Much research is done here regarding trellis systems, clones, and farming practices. They also hold a firm commitment to “growing green” with specific procedures for biodynamic, organic, and sustainable growing practices.