The Vast Varieties of the Pacific Coast

‘E’ Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

Today we take a fairly broad look at our side of the wine world, with a reminder of what draws so many of us to it. First, of course, it tastes great. Second, the world of wine is a fascinating mélange of geography, science, history, math, philosophy and, I’m sure, many other fields …

Try a new wine this week!


The Pacific Coast

From Canada to Chile, from British Columbia to the BioBio River, the Pacific Coast of North and South America has a greater variety of climates, grape varieties and wine styles than just about any other part of the world.

Just look at this list, from north to south: British Columbia, Washington, Oregon’s Willamette (north) and Rogue (south) valleys, California’s Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Temecula regions, Mexico’s Baja (yes, very up-and-coming), and Chile’s 150-mile, ladder-like stretch of river valleys from the Maule to the BioBio.

But the farthest from the equator isn’t necessarily the coldest. Proximity to the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean (whose cold Humboldt Current gives us great seafood for nearly this entire stretch), makes more of a difference, as do coastal ranges either channeling those breezes inland to vineyards or blocking them.

Matching the right grape to the right climate goes a long way toward determining a wine’s quality and style. Chardonnay in a cooler area will likely be lighter and crisper with more palate-cleansing acidity, while riper grapes from warmer weather will often result in a bigger, richer, fuller, softer style. Trying two styles in the same meal is great fun for wine fans.

On a restaurant wine list or in a wine store, it often pays to consider the source. You might not have seen much pinot noir from Chile, but it’s been doing pretty well in the cooler southern region near the BioBio River. Maybe we’ll see more in the future.

And just as California’s Santa Maria Valley — not that far from Los Angeles — is cool enough for great pinot noir and Burgundian-style chardonnays, much of northern California’s Mendocino County is quite warm and better known for more heat-loving grapes. Southern Mendocino’s Anderson Valley is a notable exception.

And farther north, northern Oregon’s Willamette Valley has a cool climate, while southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley is warmer.

The world of wine is indeed a wide one, and that’s what continually fascinates some of us fans. Geography, science, history, even math, art and philosophy, whatever your interests may be, you can find it there if you look.

Categories: Legacy Archive