‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
This week we begin our up-close look at Calfornia’s largest and most diverse wine region, the Central Coast. It’s also one of the most beautiful parts of the state, and a place I love to visit. It’s a bit more of a drive than Napa and Sonoma, an extra couple of hours from San Francisco, but scenery like that along the Highway 1 “Big Sur” makes it well worth it to me. I say slow down and enjoy the drive. It’s a vacation.
A hearty hello to my new Facebook friends. Thanks for the friendly welcome! Try a new wine this week!
Kenneth Volk’s Jaybird Chardonnay
Anchoring the southern end of California’s Central Coast wine regions, Santa Barbara County contains a variety of unique microclimates that provide a hospitable home to many different wine grape varieties.
In the north part of the county, Santa Maria Valley has become famous for Burgundian-style pinot noir and chardonnay. This style is due to the cool, constant temperatures, as nearby ocean breezes flow inland between two east-west running mountain chains (San Raphael Mountains and the Solomon Hills). They also enjoy a long, cool fall ripening period, which allows grapes to ripen slowly and completely. This extended “hand time” maximizes the grapes flavors, resulting in rich yet elegant wines with intense flavors and vibrant, palate-cleansing acidity.
Santa Ynez Valley has a cooler western end and becomes warmer toward its eastern end. In the Sta Rita Hills (pronounced Santa Rita, but spelled “Sta” because of a famous Chilean winery), area on the western end, cool morning fog is typically followed by warming sunshine in the afternoon. Then, Pacific breezes begin to flow through, cooling temperatures back down. This cooling provides a good climate for pinot noir and chardonnay. Farther inland, away from the ocean, temperatures are warmer. Heat-loving grapes like cabernet sauvignon are found there, along with syrah and other Mediterranean varieties, as well as varieties native to Italy.
You can reach this beautiful part of the Central Coast by taking the same Highway 101 that visitors to Napa and Sonoma use, it’s just a few hours to the south. But, your two- or three-hour drive from San Francisco or Los Angeles will be rewarded by some of the country’s most beautiful scenery and delicious wines and you’ll share it with fewer other tourists.
Kenneth Volk’s Santa Maria Valley Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs typify the Burgundian style for which Santa Maria Valley is famous. His unoaked “Jaybird” chardonnay retails for about $20.