So now our travels have taken us all the way to the West Coast and we are staying a couple of days in the Central Coast region of California. Broadly, this is the area between Los Angeles and San Francisco and encompasses such areas as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Monterey (amongst many others). This is my first time visiting the region. Scenically it is beautiful; rolling hills, lush vegetation and a mild climate all year round. Today, 30th April, the temperatures were in the upper 60s and lower 70s inland, although there was quite a wind that picked up late afternoon.
We didn't have appointments to visit wineries in the area, and as it is a weekend, the wineries were busy with visitors all wanting to taste and purchase. So my approach today was a little different. I decided that I wanted to get a feel for the region of San Luis Opispo, Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande. I have always believed that visiting a wine-growing region is the very best way to gain an understanding of the wines, and getting a feel for the geography is important. From just driving around, you can gain an understanding of which wineries are bigger and those that are smaller, which are more commercial and which less so. It is probably wrong to make judgements based on these factors, but I often find that my initial hunches are borne out at later tastings.
I was only able to actually visit and taste at one winery today, Baileyana. I realy wanted to go there as the winemaker, Christian Roguenant, is a Burgundian who makes Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Burgundy tradition. The tasting room is in a 100 year old converted schoolhouse in the hills above San Luis Obispo and is delightful. There is an outdoor patio and families were enjoying sipping wine while their kids played petanque. Very French! I wasn't able to taste the wines I wanted to because of time, but was able to sample a glass of Pinot Gris which was firm, fruity and refreshing. Perfect, unpretentious quaffing wine for a summer (or in this case, Spring) afternoon.
Most wineries in this area are growing grapes according to sustainable farming practices which is commendable. We also managed to see Wolff Vineyards, Tolosa (which appeared to be quite big), Tangent, Sextant and Saucelito Canyon who have the misfortune to specialize in Zinfandels, my least favorite grape of al! We weren't able to take Hopi into any of the tasting rooms and so our tastings of most of these wines will be at a later date. We do, however, have a greater understanding and respect for the "terroir", the areas where the grapes are grown, where the wine is ultimately born and develops its character.
We were able to spend some time in the delightful town of San Luis Obispo (shortened to SLO in everything - SLO Wine, SLO Food etc.) where we enjoyed lunch on the patio of a lovely sandwich shop, The Nautical Bean, and then take Hopi for a run on the beach at Morro Bay.
Tomorrow we will taste in Paso Robles and then meet up with some old friends and colleagues in the afternoon. Fun times!