The long and narrow Central Coast wine region of California stretches for approximately two hundred and fifty miles down the Pacific coastline, and holds hundreds of important Californian wineries who grow a wide array of imported grape varietals. As with the rest of California, the Central Coast region benefits enormously from the hot and sunny climate, which allows the grapes grown there to reach full ripeness and express plenty of big, juicy flavors and rich aromas. Dozens of grapes varietals are grown successfully on the Central Coast, however, classic French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region is renowned for its modern and experimental approach to viticulture, and with over 90,000 acres under vine, this is a veritable powerhouse of wine production in one of the most important New World regions on earth.
Whether you believe that Zinfandel traces its origins to the Italian Primitivo or the Croatian Plavac Mali, we can still consider this America's own. With rare exceptions, the U.S. is the only growing region in the world to explore its "noble" potential. It is grown through California as one of the most widely planted varietals, and can be "white", red, rose, fortified, late harvest or even sparkling. Even as a dry red table wine, it is made in a myriad of styles and varies greatly as the growing conditions and climate changes from region to region. It is generally full-bodied and potent, with a burly, brambly quality, and can provide a veritable fruit basket of raspberries, blackberries, dark cherries and plums. It can be made claret-like and intensely powerful and structured, with high alcohol, or more refined and elegant. It always maintains a modicum of acidity, making it wonderfully adaptable to food. The finest Zinfandel appellations include the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Howell Mountain, Alexander Valley, Amador County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Central Coast.
The Central Coast is a vast region, stretching south from Monterey to the quintessential California beach town of Santa Barbara on the Pacific Ocean.
Monterey County is at the northern end of the Central Coast region. It is distinguished by the Salinas Valley. Made famous by the writings of native son John Steinbeck, the Salinas Valley is a thriving agricultural region, recognized for extensive vineyard plantings of the most popular varieties, both red and white. At the northern end, the valley is cooled by the maritime influences of the Pacific Ocean. It becomes downright hot by the time you reach the southern end in Paso Robles. Here, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and red Rhone varietals do well in hillside vineyards which cool down at night.
As the California landscape curves southward again towards the Pacific Ocean, the vineyards become positively nippy by Paso Robles standards. Foggy mornings and nights are perfect for Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria Valley in San Luis Obispo County. There are also plantings of Riesling and Gew'rztraminer. Some believe the unspoiled Santa Ynez Valley, in northeast Santa Barbara County, is the next great California wine region. Santa Ynez experiences the typical am/pm cooling influences of the Pacific, but can be quite warm and Rhone valley-like during the day. The region holds great promise for Rhone varietals, as well as the classic Burgundian ones.