Today let’s look at one of the most diverse parts of one of California’s most diverse wine regions, a place where just about every grape variety can and does find a home.
Try a new wine this week!
Quite likely the most important and most diverse part of California’s Central Coast wine country, San Luis Obispo County may also be its least known name. It lies between Monterey County to its north, and Santa Barbara County to its south. This most central part of the Central Coast has two main wine appellations that wine lovers should know: Paso Robles and Edna Valley. Because of their very different climates their wines can be very different. A third and smaller area, Arroyo Grande, is in the south.
Paso Robles is in the northern part of SLO county. Most of the vineyards are east of town along Highway 46E, on the inland side of north-south running coastal hills, which mostly block cool Pacific breezes. Daytime temperatures can easily reach 100°F, at times cooling down at night by 40° to 50°, mainly due to cool ocean breezes flowing through a gap in the hills called the Templeton Gap. This wide temperature swing is something that grape vines like a lot. With daytime temperatures this warm you see a lot of heat-loving grapes like zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Climate and soil in the western hills can be very different.
What you don’t see much in Paso Robles is pinot noir and chardonnay. You see those grapes a few miles south near the city of San Luis Obispo in the Edna Valley wine region. This area is closer to the ocean, and cooled by it. Its moderate climate gives it one of the longest fall ripening periods in California. This allows the grapes to remain on the vines longer into the fall, letting them develop more and more flavor before harvest. This extended ripening period has helped to make Edna Valley famous for richly flavored pinot noir and chardonnay.
And in the southern part of San Luis Obispo County is Arroyo Grande, a small region that’s very close to the ocean. Here they sometimes protect the vineyards from the very cool temperatures combined with ocean fogs by planting on south facing slopes, a practice more associated with northern European climates than with sunny California. Because of its cool climate it has a history of sparkling wine production.
RED4, “Red to the power of 4”, is made from four red grape varieties — petite sirah, syrah, grenache and mourvedre — each well suited to the warm climate of Paso Robles.