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Au Bon Climat

Central Coast

There are three options for travelers to traverse the 300 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The fastest route runs inland through the Central Valley region and is dreary and monotonous. If you have time, take the enchanting and famous California State Route 1 along the coast. The third option, the less scenic U.S. Route 101 offers expansive views of vineyards that seem to stretch as far as they can see. All three trails pass through California viticulture. You may be surprised to learn that as much as 80 percent of California's wine is produced from the central Central Valley Region, which runs from Bakersfield in the south to Sacramento in the north. The more western coastal region of California consists of four major growth regions: Monterey, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. It is an area whose wine production can best be described as a kind of Boutique versus Bulk

There are a large number of boutique producers, particularly in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. These places produce world-class wines that consistently receive high praise from critics, particularly bottlings of Santa Barbara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. But there are also huge wine companies producing tons and tons of grapes for bulk wine production. Paso, for example, produces so much fruit that a significant portion of the harvest goes to producers across the country. Some of the preserved fruit becomes exceptional Rhône blends as well as powerful blends of Zinfandels and Cabernet.

The Central Coast is so large that it falls within two completely different climate zones and contains vastly different soil ranges throughout. On the western edges of the valley, breezes from the Pacific Ocean affect the vineyards. Vines are rooted in limestone-rich subsoils similar to those found in France's Rhone Valley, but contain a high proportion of marine deposits. In these areas, the cooler temperatures combined with limestone-rich soils create ideal conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to thrive.

Towards the east, the sun's rays begin to hit harder and the average daily temperature rises as you approach appellations such as Happy Canyon or Santa Barbara, where loam and clay soils are also abundant in minerals. Syrah performs very well in these areas, particularly examples from Santa Barbara's Ballard Canyon, while varieties such as Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache and Mourvedre thrive in the region. From vineyard to vineyard across the valley, there is evidence of ancient seabeds and alluvial fans - ideal soils that help emphasize the vines and contribute to strength and, ultimately, better wines.