California has added a new wine region in San Luis Obispo County, SLO Coast.
Last week, the SLO Coast Wine Collective announced that the San Luis Obispo Coast has been recognized by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as the newest American Viticultural Area.
Until this new addition, San Luis Obispo County was home to four AVAs — Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande, Edna Valley, and York Mountain — but had not had a new a new addition since Arroyo Grande was awarded the title in 1990.
The SLO Coast AVA consists of a narrow strip of land 60 miles in length and 15 miles wide. It is home to 32 wineries, who together applied for the official status in 2017, making a case for the area’s unique and regional-specific characteristics based largely on its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
“We are one of the coldest spots to grow grapes because we are so close to the Pacific Ocean. What makes this area interesting is the low temperatures coupled with a lot of sunlight. Cool temperatures preserve acid and in grapes like Pinot Noir, the sun helps with pigment, color, and tannin,” said SLO Coast Wine president Stephen Dooley. The San Luis Obispo Coast AVA’s soils range from marine to volcanic depending on the location of the vineyard.
The San Luis Obispo Coast AVA’s 78 vineyards have 3,942 acres planted to vines — most famously to premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Over the past decade, however, a more diverse list of grape varieties has taken root, including Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, and Riesling as well as red varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Lagrein.
“Ninety-seven percent of our vineyards are planted 6 or fewer miles from the Pacific,” said Aaron Jackson, winemaker at Aequorea Wines and author of the AVA application. “Based on annual Growing Degree Day data retrieved from 30+ weather stations in the area, the SLO Coast AVA is the coolest temperature AVA in California. Diurnal temperature shift, wind, and fog are reflected by this measurement, as are the character and quality of the grapes grown here. These cool conditions can be tough on the growers but they give the winemakers so much to work with.”
Those low temperatures provide the SLO Coast AVA with a prolonged growing season that gives grapes more time to develop complexity. These wines tend to exhibit more fresh fruit and focused acidity than wines grown over the hill in the warmer northeastern part of the county, and the alcohol levels are moderated by the temperature as well. The result is wines that accompany food beautifully while exhibiting an inherent elegance and finesse.
Wineries that also fall within the smaller Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs are permitted to use the appellation they feel best represents their wines. The new AVA also permits producers to use either “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” on their labels.
Members of the SLO Coast Wine Collective include Absolution Cellars, Aequorea, Autry Cellars, Baileyana, Tangent and True Myth wineries, Biddle Ranch Vineyard, Cal Poly Winery, Center of Effort, Chamisal Vineyards, Claiborne & Churchill Winery, Croma Vera Wines, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Dunites Wine Co, Edna Valley Vineyard, El Lugar Wines, Filipponi Ranch, Kynsi Winery, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Maidenstoen Wine, Niner Wine Estates, Oceano Wines, Peloton Cellars, Piedra Creek Winery, Ragtag Wine Co, Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Sinor-LaVallee, Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Stolo Vineyards, Talley Vineyards, Timbre Winery, Tolosa, Verdad & Lindquist Family Wines and Wolff Vineyards.
For more information, head over to SLO Coast Wine Collective’s official website.