Best Coast Wines Road Trip: Central Coast

It was a wine hunting mission. Crush was over and now it was time to make some moves.

I packed up the surfboards and camping gear and started speedin like a demon on 280 south…

The hero of our story: The Red Ranger

The hero of our story: The Red Ranger

…Well, quite the contrary actually. Anyone that has sat shotgun in my truck knows I drive like a senior citizen that slows for interesting cloud formations.  Flick on the radio and cue the Doobie Brothers...

“.... And I ain't got no worries cause I ain't in no hurry at all.”

The central coast of California showcases some of the most distinct and dramatic landscapes in the world. As I drive along the rugged terrain of the Monterrey mountain tops to the white limestone shelves in West Paso Robles, I always gain a deep appreciation for the countless acres of picturesque vineyards in this part of the world.

The vines of Paso Robles

The vines of Paso Robles

Due to the diversity of the land, almost any varietal is fair game for growing. Gaps in the coastal mountains allow ocean air to creep through and provide cool pockets to grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Further inland, the warm, dry valley floors are optimal for Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Rhone varietals such as Syrah and Grenache. Practically all of the main wine grapes find a home somewhere in the middle of the state.

My task is simple. Find the best wines available. Growers often have surplus wines for sale and I track down, taste, and blend to see what works best. Sampling can be tedious. I often spend hours blending different percentages of varietals together to achieve optimal balance. This might sound like a dream job... well it is… but it's also quite challenging. The palate grows weary after the first round of samples. I like to divide tastings up into different days allowing for a more focused palate and intricate notes. Here are the gems of this wine hunting mission:

2014 Viognier – Paso Robles

Piercing aromatics, perfume, lime/lemon zest, red rose, wildflower, viscosity and texture on the palate, melon, citrus, tropical fruits.  A light and friendly finish.

2013 Riesling – Monterey

Powerful aromatics, lime zest, citrus with hints of jasmine, tea leaf, thyme, mint. Layers of peach, tangerine, white nectarine.  A ripe nose, but finishes dry and balanced.

2013 Zinfandel – Paso Robles #1

Light-styled and bright, candied grapefruit nose, cherry pie filling and raspberry jam. Interesting and different. Tutti Frutti.

2013 Zinfandel – Paso Robles #2 – Organic

Raspberry basket, hint of vanilla, bouquet of lavender and redwood. Deep and complex. Luscious flavors

2013 Pinot Noir – Monterey

Toasty cherry nose, rustic, spice.  Light on the palate, silky, with firm acidity. Pink strawberry fruit more prominent on palate. Finishes softly.

2013 Barbera – Paso Robles

Clouds of blackberry, licorice, wild cherry on the nose.  Toasty oak, chocolate notes as well. Intense flavor on the palate with soft mouth feel, little tannin. Firm acid promotes long finish.

Swell. Pumping. Central Coast. 

Swell. Pumping. Central Coast. 

Once the wines had been discovered and documented, it was time to play.

I headed north up to Big Sur to meet up with some fellow campers.  Friends from all over the state met smack dab in the middle at a campsite so beautiful even pictures don't do it justice.

The swell was pumping all weekend. We surfed and swam in the ocean, hiked along the bluffs, and even did a bit of jade hunting.  At night we feasted pot luck style and drank wines leftover from the work week.  To top it off we slept under a sky bursting with shooting stars. Apparently we timed the meteor shower perfectly. Sometimes you just get lucky. Can’t wait to do it all again soon.