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Discover California's Central Coast

Discovering California’s Central Coast

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.

Discover California's Central Coast

San Luis Obispo Coast AVA Vineyard

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.

Discover California's Central Coast

Morro Bay, California

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 mina@bensonmarketing.com to learn more.

Celebrating the Women Behind Wine

With each glass selected, we have the opportunity to champion women and the other underrepresented winemakers in our communities.

To celebrate Women’s History Month,  today we spotlighted four spirited women from coveted regions across the U.S. as well as South Africa in a virtual tasting for press. (For some additional background, these stories in Uproxx and News-Press feature women in wine including our clients described below.)

Sharon Fenchak

Sharon Fenchak, Winemaker for Biltmore Wines

Sharon joined the team at Biltmore Wines (you’ll recognize that name from the Biltmore® Estate in Asheville, NC) in 1999 and is Head Winemaker as of 2018. She oversees wine production not only from Biltmore’s estate vineyards in North Carolina, but also with fruit sourced from key growers and partners in prime wine appellations on the west coast as well. In this way, she is crafting a storied wine portfolio for Biltmore to continue the legacy of hospitality set by George Vanderbilt himself. Share in some of this storied Vanderbilt hospitality by enjoying a Biltmore wine with your friends and family! Two wines to try:

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2018, SRP $24

Biltmore Estate American Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, SRP $22

Megan McCullough

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, of Hahn Family Wines

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, leads Hahn Family Wines’ Central Coast red wines that pay homage to the Hahn family’s first Monterey County properties, known today as the Smith Vineyard and Hook Vineyard. With nearly a decade of winemaking experiences under her belt, McCollough is setting an example for other young women winemakers in California. Try some of her latest reds:

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend 2017, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $45

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

Linda Trotta –  With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture.  In her role with WX Brands, she she has received numerous accolades for her wines, including a Wine Spectator Top 100 selection for her 2018 Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. We recommend:

Reata Sonoma County Chardonnay and Three County Pinot Noir ($25)

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18)

Silver Spur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($28)

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Winemaker for Steenberg Vineyards

Steenberg Cellarmaster Elunda Basson is an accomplished winemaker and respected specialist of her craft. She joined South Africa’s Steenberg Vineyards in June 2019 at the pinnacle of an illustrious career spanning more than two decades making still and sparkling wines for leaders in the industry. Located in South Africa’s storied Constantia wine region, Steenberg Vineyards can also boast of being the oldest registered farm in the country, dating to 1682. Today the property thrives under Elunda’s expertise, producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country. Steenberg’s distinctive terroir results in wines exhibiting freshness, elegance and finesse. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, the vineyards are home to Bordeaux varietals and one of the few investments in Nebbiolo in the Cape area.

Check out this truly unique take on Sauvignon Blanc — traditional method sparkling twist on everyone’s favorite varietal!

NV Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Contact Alex Parker, parker@bensonmarketing.com, to connect with these women and their wines.

Among many other outlets, FirstLeaf (not a client of Benson) featured a blog post in March on women re-imagining the industry.

Positive on Paso: Why you should be looking at Paso Robles for Cabernet Sauvignon

Positive on Paso: Why You Should Look to Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Cab is still ‘king’ in the U.S. wine market, but 2020 has shown it’s time to start looking at the areas these wines come from differently. According to Sovos ShipCompliant data, Cabernet is still the most ordered varietal, but the price per bottle is dropping.

And why is that?

COVID-19 lockdowns drove many people to buy online, and many of those buyers were in the Gen X and Millennial generations, an important demographic for the present and future of the wine industry. Looking for good value in the bottle, they migrated towards Cabernet’s NOT from pricey areas like Napa Valley.

Enter Paso Robles.

This region has long been known as a region that delivers all of the fruit and structure wanted in a Cab for more approachable prices. These are wines to enjoyed with family and friends at any time and not stored away for special occasions. But don’t take our word for it. Explore these Paso Robles clients, their winemakers and wines with our webinar, “BensonLive Presents: Positive on Paso Cab,” an interview with four winemakers taped June 24, 2021, located here on our YouTube channel.

Clockwise from top left: Kip Lorenzetti, Anthony Riboli, Roy Takigawa, Megan McCollough

Megan McCollough, Smith & Hook, Hahn Family Wines
Megan McCollough, Smith & Hook Winemaker, leads Hahn Family Wines’ Central Coast red wines that pay homage to the Hahn family’s first Monterey County properties. With nearly a decade of winemaking experiences under her belt, McCollough is setting an example for other young winemakers in California. Try one of her latest wines from Paso Robles: Smith & Hook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $45

Kip Lorenzetti, Chronic Cellars
Kip Lorenzetti’s winemaking career has taken him around the world, but he has called Paso Robles home for more than five years. Prior to Chronic Cellars, he was the winemaker at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyard, a pioneer in the Paso Robles area. It is the mission of Chronic Cellars to bring the nuances of the 11 different sub-AVAs in Paso into its wines. Good wine is in the winery’s bones.
Check out something noble with Chronic Cellars Sir Real Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $15

Rob Takigawa, True Myth
Rob has been making wine in SLO County for over 20 years. Each vintage has furthered his knowledge of growing and making excellent wine in Paso Robles. A native of the Central Coast, Rob is a graduate of Cal Poly with a Soil Science Degree. After first understanding the science side of wine, Rob was inspired to get his hands dirty and ventured into the in winemaking side in 1997. From there he has never looked back. Taste his experience in Paso through the latest vintage of True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $24

Anthony Riboli, Highlands 41, Riboli Estates Group
Fourth generation family winemaker Anthony Riboli received his M.S. in Viticulture from the University of California, Davis. Since apprenticing under Michael Weis at Groth in Napa Valley, he has lead winemaking and grape growing for the California portfolio at Riboli Family Wines. Anthony’s foremost goal has been a meticulous focus in the vineyards as well as winemaking at Riboli Family’s state-of-the-art facility in Paso Robles. Start your Paso Robles adventure here: Highlands 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $15

Contact Thea Schlendorf at schlendorf@bensonmarketing.com to connect with these winemakers and their wines.