Three Counties, Many Distinct Wines

‘E’ Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

This week we’ll look at some of California’s best wine regions and which grapes are most successful in each. With the tremendous diversity of microclimates along the sprawling Central Coast, it’s helpful to know which region you want to see on the label for your favorite grape.

 If you’re in Little Rock on July 23 you can taste some great wines with James Cripps and me “After Work at the Afterthought” in Little Rock’s historic Hillcrest neighborhood. We’ll be pouring new arrivals from Aqua Pumpkin and Kenneth Volk Vineyards from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Stop by and taste through the wines at your own pace for only $10 per person. Appetizer specials will be available and the restaurant Vieux Carré is right next door. Details at

Try a new wine this week! 



Three Counties, Many Distinct Wines

It seems today that wine lovers hear more about what’s happening along California’s Central Coast counties (south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles) than we do about the North Coast (north of San Francisco, mainly Napa and Sonoma). Here is a quick look at the most important places to know.

Monterey County: Best known for the seaside city of Monterey, situated near the point where the Salinas River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river valley forms something of a natural sump, allowing cold Pacific breezes to flow inland. While Monterey County has different wine subregions — Santa Lucia Highlands being one of the best known — at this point most of its wines reflect the area’s very cool climate and most people lump them together for now. For the most part, this means crisp whites and supple reds from many different grape varieties.

San Luis Obispo County: There are two main places to know about in this most central of the Central Coast counties, and they’re very different. The town of Paso Robles gives its name to the wines made around it. The climate during the growing season is marked by hot, dry days and much cooler evenings and nights. The grapes that thrive in these sun-baked vineyards begin with zinfandel (Paso is home to the annual Zinfandel Festival), and that family of grapes known as Mediterranean varietals. The most famous of these is syrah (aka shiraz). Others include grenache and mourvedre for reds, and viognier, roussanne and marsanne for whites. Petite sirah, also does well here, and Paso cabernet sauvignon is excellent.

In the southern part of SLO County the average temperature is much cooler, making it conducive to growing pinot noir grapes. This is especially true for Edna Valley, marked by east-west running mountains and a close proximity to the ocean.

Santa Barbara County: There are two main valleys to know in Santa Barbara County. Santa Maria Valley is closest to the ocean and cooler. Most people know it for its pinot noirs, made famous by the movie “Sideways.” The second is farther inland and somewhat warmer on average.  Santa Ynez Valley is becoming increasingly famous for the “Mediterranean varietals” (also called “Rhone varietals), mentioned earlier.  A distinct style is emerging for syrah (shiraz), sometimes called “cool climate syrah).

Categories: Legacy Archive