California’s Central Coast is garnering an increasing share of the spotlight, and deservedly so.
In 2022, the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA was recognized, joining previously recognized areas like Paso Robles, Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco. This addition is a new chapter in the region’s evolution as one of California’s top wine producing regions, and good reason to discover, or rediscover, California’s Central Coast.
Beyond the wine, the Central Coast also has people’s attention as home to fantastic aquatic activities, hiking trails, and relaxing spas. Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the region has an incredible amount to offer and can be more approachable than some wine regions to the north. Featuring unique takes on Bordeaux and Rhone blends, Central Coast wineries have something to whet everyone’s palate.
Here’s a look at a few key wineries and their wines:
Hahn Family Wines has tasting rooms in the towns of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Soledad. Pioneers in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH), Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn first purchased land in the 1970s and was keen to see its potential as a renowned wine region. He led efforts to officially establish Santa Lucia Highlands as an official AVA. Today, Hahn Family Wines owns one of the largest shares of planted vines in the SLH, farming 650 acres (10% of SLH). They remain an independent, family-owned, and operated wine company focused on growing and producing luxury and ultra-premium wines from certified sustainable estate vineyards. Their wines include:
Hahn SLH Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands – SRP $35 – Hahn Family Wines was one of the first wineries in the region to have all its estate vineyards certified under the rigorous Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Program. The vineyards used for sourcing the Pinot Noir grapes for this wine experience a long and dry growing season that results in wines with remarkable depth, complexity and ripe fruit flavors.
Hahn Appellation Series Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco – SRP $20 – Located south of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco is one of the smallest AVAs in California, boasting one of the longest growing seasons in the state due to cool winds that blow in daily from Monterey Bay. As a result, this Chardonnay is vibrant on the palate, with flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and gentle notes of honey, followed by nuanced toasty spice on the finish. Hahn Appellation Series includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Grenache Syrah Mourvédre (GSM) priced $20-25/750ml.
Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend, Central Coast – SRP $25 – The Smith & Hook story begins 40 years ago in the hills of Monterey County where the Hahn family founded Smith & Hook, launching a decades-long exploration of Central Coast winemaking. Today Winemaker Megan McCollough produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines, priced $25-45, as well as this classic Bordeaux blend of primarily Merlot, Petite Sirah, Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is sourced from three prestigious appellations of the Central Coast: Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and San Antonio Valley. This expressive blend features vibrant aromas of cranberry, dark cherry and plum, underscored by notes of mushroom and subtle hints of lavender.
Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles is fully committed to making seriously good wine for people looking for a little dose of adventure. Their disruptive style is matched only by the killer quality of their wines, made with character to match the clever and playful labels.
Chronic Cellars Sir Real Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP $17 – Noble to the core and made with character in Paso Robles, Sir Real delivers striking but approachable layers of dark fruit, currants and dried cherry with cedar and tobacco flavors.
Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise – SRP $17 – Catch a lucky break with Purple Paradise. This Zinfandel-dominated blend rolls out blackberry fruit, cherry cola and touches of mocha and lavender. The alluring balanced acidity and mild tannins float towards a blissful finish as an ode to the perfect landscape where it originates.
Baileyana Winery in San Luis Obispo (SLO) has numerous accolades from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator and is in SLO’s historic Independence Schoolhouse, built in 1909. The winery has award-winning wines that hail from lush vineyard vines set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Santa Lucia mountains in the Edna Valley. They also produce wines under the True Myth label from Paso Robles.
Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay, Edna Valley – SRP $28 – A chardonnay as bright and complex as the central coast with upfront flavors of crisp pear, lemon zest, pineapple and a hint of vanilla. This wine has a smooth and relaxed finish.
True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP $24 – Coming from hand-selected vineyard sites, this wine showcases the power and lushness of Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. Sourced from old vines, which bring the bold, powerful and opulent notes of black cherry, cassis and pepper associated with high-quality Cab. Rich yet smooth, this wine is very approachable now, and will continue to mature for years to come.
Riboli Family Wines was one of the first wineries to come out of Los Angeles (they still have a winery there along with a restaurant). The brand has recently expanded to Paso Robles and the central coast. It has been family owned since 1917. San Antonio Winery, the Los Angeles property, was opened by Anthony Riboli (4th generation winemaker’s) great great uncle, Santo Cambianica who came to the US from Lombardia, Italy. Anthony’s grandfather, Stefano Riboli, joined the family business and expanded it with his wife, Maddelena who is turning 100 this year. The third- and fourth generations of Ribolis consider themselves stewards of the 1,400 acres of estate vineyard now under their care. Since 2019, REG has maintained sustainability certifications from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance for all of its estate vineyards, as well as the Paso Robles winery facility – something fewer than 5% of all California wineries can claim.
Maddalena Rosé – SRP $15 – Named after the matriarch and founder of Riboli Family Wines, this sustainably produced Rosé is a bright, luscious wine with ripe red plum and raspberry flavors.
San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc – SRP $19 – Located near the coastal town of San Simeon, the estate vineyards are located within the El Pomar district of the renowned Paso Robles appellation. Small lots are picked and fermented individually with minimal intervention to allow the true expression of the soil and climate. This is a bright, refreshing wine with intense flavors of citrus and pear. The nose reveals bright aromas of white peach and lime zest. Mineral notes express the rocky terroir of the vineyard.
San Simeon Stormwatch – SRP $70 – Steep hillsides and rocky soils produce the intense flavors and aromas of this Bordeaux-style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc). The wine is dark, rich, and mouth-filling complete with ripe flavors of blackberry and raspberry with touches of spice and vanilla.
Let us know if we can help you discover California’s Central Coast. Contact Nadea at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.