From Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, discover the diversity of vineyards and grapes. Matt Kettmann, who reviews the wines of the region, is your guide.
Jameson Fink: Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor. Today I’m going on a tour of the Central Coast of California via its wineries and vineyards with MK.
Matt Kettmann: Matt Kettmann. Contributing editor. I review the wines of the Central Coast and South Coast of California.
MK: Hello. I’m in a closet where they last saw a weasel, so that’s cool.
JF: Well, the weasel’s where the best wi-fi reception is.
MK: That’s right.
JF: This is good. You’ll have no distractions.
MK: Exactly, yeah.
JF: Matt, where are you right now?
MK: Right I’m actually in the Kenneth Volk Winery, which is a … Kind of in one of these deep canyons of the Santa Maria Valley. Ken actually started Wild Horse Winery up in Paso Robles back in 1983. Did very, very well, sold it about 20 years later, and then started this winery pretty much right after that.
JF: Tell me where is this area in relation to, I don’t know, like a metropolitan area or something that I can wrap my head around.
MK: The Santa Maria Valley is basically extends from the coast around the city around Santa Maria, which is actually a bigger city than Santa Barbara, but both are in Santa Barbara County, so we’re about an hour north of Santa Barbara and we’re about, oh probably about 40 minutes South of San Luis Obispo area. I don’t know if those count as metropolitan areas but we’d be about, oh I’d say probably three hours plus, south of San Francisco and about, I don’t know, two and a half to three hours north of L.A.
JF: I’m assuming that you have tasted some wines today. What are kind of the wines of that region? The grapes? What can you expect from that region?
MK: Well Santa Maria Valley is famous for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and have been since, I mean really, since the 1970s when it was a big bulk growing area. Before a lot of north coast wineries that would come down and buy this fruit. Now, it’s still famous for those but on a much higher, higher level. They’re selling … Pinot goes for 4,000, 4,500 a ton from here now, so it competes with Santa Rita Hills, San Luis Sea Highlands, even parts of Sonoma. Pinot is huge here. Chardonnay is huge here. Both on the kind of boutique and the larger scale.
Ken Volk here is situated between Cambria and Byron which are both Kendall-Jackson properties and contribute to the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, which is like the number one selling wine in the country I believe. A lot of that bigger production stuff comes from this area, too.
JF: Cool, but I know right now you’re drinking something that’s neither Pinot Noir nor Chardonnay and it’s probably something that very few people have heard of. I haven’t even heard of it.
MK: Right, so what I’m actually drinking this second is Cabernet pfeffer, which is a grape that was named back in the 1920s up in the San Jose, Santa Clarita Valley area, which is also technically Central Coast AVA. It was named back then by a guy, who I just learned this from Ken Volk, but the guys name was something Pfeffer and it is kind of a spicy red varietal. They named it Cab Pfeffer but it’s actually … Ken knows all this stuff. He’s like a genius, mad genius of kind of obscure varietals, and he said that it’s actually Gros Verdot. We’re all pretty familiar with Petite Verdot which is a Bordeaux varietal and this one is actually, they have genetically identified it as Gros Verdot but there’s not really much of it left in the world other than in California because the Phylloxera epidemic in France kind of wiped it out over there.
There’s really just kind of a few small plantings of it in California. It makes for a pretty nice wine, nothing extremely complicated, but a good kind of spicy red wine. Pfeffer means pepper in German, I take it, so it’s well-named for a couple different reasons. Ken does all … He does a bunch of different weird varietals from up and down the Central Coast from Malvasia Bianca that’s from around here to … He does some really kind of … This isn’t particularly obscure, but he does really old vine Mourvedra that’s from the 1920s up in San Benito County. He’s got all the kind of Iberian grapes that are not super common around California like Tempranillo, things like that. He also has Verdelho and just some really kind of obscure ones that, you know, you don’t really find anywhere.
He’s got Triguenas, you know, some of the Portuguese grapes that he’s making into distill wines. He’s got a white port that’s kind of interesting in a Modera style, so he does all this kind of weird stuff which is one of the reasons why … I’ve been wanting to come see him because he’s a real pioneer of this area and one of these cool success stories, but he’s also doing … He’s really pushing the envelope for these really kind of obscure varietals and really saying, you know, there’s 1,500 or however many thousands of types of wine grapes out there. Pretty much, the world runs on what he would say is, “Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.” Yet there’s all these other interesting varietals out there to try and taste.
He has success with it at least on the smaller level. He’s still … His main gig and what he makes all the money doing is the Pinot and the Chard that goes all over the country but his Wine Club loves these more obscure varietals and I don’t know. I think the man keeps wine tasting interesting, you know? If you do it with any sort of regularity, you’re going to grow tired of tasting Cab and Chard and Pinot all the time. You know? I taste a bunch of wine so it’s always good to try a new flavor.
JF: Yes. Speaking of new flavors, so right now I just landed in Paso Robles. It’s my first time here. I’m on a little media trip and I flew into San Luis Obispo and it was about a half hour drive north. One of the things I was thinking about, about this region and the wines that you review is, there’s also, speaking of grapes, there’s a lot of grapes being grown here. I think of like, Tablas Creek and how many grapes they do. It’s pretty amazing. Does a region like Paso … I know you always talk about this in Washington state, like do they have a signature grape? Do they need a signature grape? Is variety the spice of life? When you think about Paso, what do you think about its landscape of grapes?
MK: Yeah, I mean, Paso is a good example of where they … I don’t want to say struggle because they actually have success on kind of multiple fronts up there but for years it was kind of Cab and Zinfandel country and then the Rhone varietals, particularly, Syrah and Grenache got a lot of acclaim and got really popular. You actually have this kind of backlash where another group called, The Cab Collective was started to say, “Hey wait a minute. Let’s not forget about Cab and these other Bordeaux varietals.” There’s a tension there. Kind of on that front, both camps are doing a pretty good job of explaining what they do and doing that well and why they make high quality wines.
Also in Paso, you find actually a lot of wineries are making all types as well. The guys that are making great Syrah is also makes some pretty killer Cabs and the guys that are making killer Cabs are also making pretty good Syrahs, so there’s a lot of comradery around all that. It is really kind of a wider Central Coast problem and one that here in Santa Barbara county they grapple with all the time is, you know, too much variety … Well it can be good on kind of a local level in the sense that, you know, people that live here or near here can go and try a bunch of different wines.It does make it hard on a more of a national and international scale to say, “Hey, this is what we do well” because really, frankly, we do a lot of things quite well, whether it’s Cab from Paso or the Eastern Santa Ines Valley, all the way to Pinot from numerous parts of the area, to Rhones, which do … Syrah does great in Paso. It also does great down here in Ballard Canyon. How do you … Is that a blessing or a curse? I think overall it’s a blessing but I do hear repeatedly that publicizing the region kind of nationally or internationally is challenging because people … It’s not just like Napa where they do great Cab and everyone kind of knows that.
People have to go out and compete against these regions that have really kind of established reputations in both, here in California and they’re also competing against places like Bordeaux and Burgundy, where people know what they do. There’s a lot of discussion over that. I don’t think anyone’s going to advocate that you should go backwards and say, “Well let’s rip all this out and let’s just all grow Pinot” because that doesn’t make any sense either.
There is definitely that kind of tension. I’m always curious to hear opinions from people like you or people that come from outside the area and come and do they like it or not? What do you think? Do you like the fact that there’s more to try than just Cab or just Pinot?
JF: I do. You know, I want to try and not be wishy-washy but I’m going to be a little wishy-washy. Look, not every region can be, like you said, Napa with Cabernet or the Willamette Valley with Pinot Noir. They have something that’s just really iconic and you can really hang your hat on. One part of me would think, well if I like … If I’m familiar with Pinot Noir from Oregon, maybe if a producer is making another grape, I might be like, “Oh, I like these wines or like this producer. I’m going to try other things that they have.”
Otherwise, I mean look, I don’t see the demand for Cabernet or Pinot waning at any time, ever, in my lifetime or future generations but there is something kind of exciting about, hey we do a lot of things well. Also, in some cases, and maybe it’s Washington’s case that, you know, it’s still a fairly young industry and everyone’s kind of figuring out what works best but I think it’s a … I don’t know. Yeah. Part of me is glad I’m not in Marketing because you know, you can’t just say, “Willamette Pinot or Napa Cab.” I think you just have to say, “Hey, we can do … Our climate allows us to do a lot of things good and we have something for everyone.” I think that’s kind of the way to approach it, is we have a cornucopia of things. You want four or five different whites, you want ten different reds, and things like that. Yeah, it’s got to be hard to position yourself.
MK: It seems like in other industries, even in other beverage industries like beer, I mean no one’s like, “Hey, we just make one IPA and it’s great.” It’s like, “We have ten different flavors here.” You know? I don’t see how that plays negatively in wine. I don’t necessarily believe that it does, I do believe it’s an interesting discussion point and it comes up all the time. I’ve actually even run panels on this very topic but I think the overall impression is, “Hey, we do a lot of things well” and it’s true. We are still … Even though it’s been going on here for 30 plus years, people are still kind of figuring out what does well where and what can be sold on a mass scale.
I think what you’ll find is, a lot of people will do, like Ken Volk does here, will do kind of their bread and butter Pinot and Chard or if it’s Cab and Syrah, but then they’ll have a couple small-batched lots of maybe 150 to 500 cases of this or that other grape just to keep people interested and keep people coming back to the tasting room. Now, because direct to consumer is such a huge part of wine sales for all of these medium to smaller wineries, they have to keep their wine clubs happy. They have to keep their visitors returning. I don’t think you can do that with just four or five good wines a year.
You kind of need a good variety. I enjoy it as a consumer and critic, just to try something new all the time but I also understand how it can be kind of difficult in telling a consistent story beyond the region, can be tough. I mean I hear people all the time that come out of Santa Barbara or even Paso, but even some more so like, Santa Rita Hills, they go out and they say, “Oh this is Pinot from Santa Rita Hills” and people are like, “Oh, I love it! Is that near Napa?”
JF: Right. That’s interesting.
MK: Kind of not really.
JF: That’s interesting that you mentioned that too because we talk about, I mean, your big beat is the Central Coast, correct?
JF: That encompasses pretty much everything you’ve mentioned, right? I mean, it’s a huge area.
MK: Yeah, so the Central Coast is a huge area. It goes from basically, kind of you can think of it as like the Southern Bay area, so just south of San Francisco, all through the Santa Cruz mountains which is one of the most exciting wine regions on the planet. Then down into Monterey County. That includes the Santa Lucia Highlands is big for Pinot and Chard. That includes Arroyo Seco AVA, which I wrote about recently, that includes historic AVA like Shalom and then Carmel Valley is there. Then you get into San Luis Obispo County where Paso takes up the bulk of Northern San Luis Obispo County and then it drops down into the Etna Valley, which is a really kind of historic region of Pinot and Chard.
Actually, one of the coolest climates … I think in some parts are the coolest climate of California. Cooler than even parts of coastal Sonoma and even points north of there. Then, you drop into Santa Barbara County where I am at right now, which is Santa Maria Valley and then you get into the Santa Ynez Valley, which going from west to east you have the Santa Rita Hills, which is Pinot and Chard. Then, you have Ballard Canyon, which is really one of the first Rhone, I think the first kind of Rhone focused appellation in the country perhaps.
Then Los Olivos district is just east of that which was recently started and that has a lot of … It has a good mix. Bordeaux Rhones, Sauvignon Blanc’s, that sort of stuff. East of that you have Happy Canyon, which is kind of where they grow the bulk of Santa Barbara County’s Cabernet and Merlot and those more iconic Bordeaux varietals. Then everything that is not appellated yet is still considered same as valley.
Even within all that, you have vineyards that are really outliers that are extremely coastal. Just last week I was at a place called Jalama Canyon Ranch, which is called JCR, and they’re southwest of the Santa Rita Hills, which is kind of bizarre but really cool terroir. A beautiful ranch. They hardly make any wine but they have a few acres of grapes and it’s a commercial brand so you can find it out there.
Then, up in SLO, you have these extreme coastal sites that I’ve always been fascinated by, but they don’t have their own appellation. They’re just these little vineyards here and there. You find all types of weird little pockets around and it’s really … It’s just a great place to grow all different types of grapes. It’s really close to the coast. Even the furthest inland you get in any one of these counties is still pretty much coastly influenced. You get a lot of big diurnal shifts where it can be hot in the day and cold at night. It just kind of gives a lot of different grapes a chance to thrive.
JF: I always play a drinking game called diurnal Shift whenever I talk to people about wine, whenever you say diurnal shift, it’s time to take a drink.
One of the areas you mention, Matt, in the Central Coast, I want to go back to because I agree with you on … The wines coming from there are pretty amazing and it is the Santa Cruz mountains. I would be so bold as to say some of my favorite Cabernet, Chardonnay, and the Pinot Noir comes from there in that one region of California.
I’m particularly fond of Mount Eden Vineyards. That’s the producer I know the best but there’s something about the … Especially the Cabernet. The fruit that comes there that I think is really, really amazing and I actually happen to dial up some of your reviews just in case we were … I didn’t think we would be in huge disagreement at all. I thought we would definitely be on the same page but not even Vineyard’s Chardonnay, one of the greatest Chardonnay’s made in California, each vintage says MK.
Can you talk about that-
MK: There you go.
JF: Thanks for backing me up.
JF: Can you talk about the Santa Cruz Mountains, where it is and just what makes it unique because I think people still just aren’t that familiar with it.
MK: Right, so the Santa Cruz Mountain’s actually it’s an elevation defined appellations, so it’s above a certain number of feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains and I think it’s above 600 or 800 feet and it goes essentially from just south of San Francisco, kind of in the Woodside area, kind of above essentially Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley parts and then goes all the way south, really into almost Gilroy. On the coastal side, that’s stretching really from Half Moon Bay or even a little bit north of there down way past Santa Cruz almost approaching, really pretty close to Monterey County.
It’s on both sides of the mountains so you have this … A lot of the vineyards, especially a lot of these ones that are in the kind of the Corralitos area by Watsonville and Aptos, they have this extremely coastly influenced fruit that can be very kind of ethereal and live and a like a lighter style of Pinot Noir and very minerally, you know, kind of chalky Chardonnay, I guess.
I think on both of those grapes you get this kind of cool sea salt influence because the coast is really so close and they’re right there. On the other side of the mountains and towards the top and Mount Eden is just on the other side looking towards San Jose really and the South Bay of the Bay Area. You get a slight warmer influence, all though it’s still quite cold because the Bay dips down there but what you find I think in a lot of the wines … And especially the Cabernet’s and the Bordeaux varietals up there, is you get this really strong dried herbal quality that you don’t … Is kind of lacking in a lot of other wines in the Central Coast. Then in California in general.
I mean in California, you have great abundant sunshine and so a lot of our Bordeaux’s have kind of a … You know, they can have great structure and great spice but they really kind of rely on this really kind of voluptuous fruit and Santa Cruz, it can almost always full them out of line up because they don’t really have that. They have this other kind of more … I don’t know, dried or wild fruit. It’s almost like there’s cherries that you would grow wild in the forest verses cherries that are grown to be super plump and ripe.
The Santa Cruz ones are definitely those ones that are kind of grown in the bushes and with a lot of chaparral and you can even get in a lot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, you get kind of a Redwood piney influence in a lot of their Pinot’s and Syrah’s and even the Cabs. I think they really stand out. It’s also a super historic region, you know? I mean people have been growing grapes up there since before the 1900s. They were growing some of California’s early grapes up there in the 18, I want to say 60s, 70s, 80s. That’s where Paul Masson was and a lot of these guys that were kind of pioneers of the entire state. Martin Ray … You know, they were growing this stuff up there.
A lot of those vineyards actually still exist. I believe the one of the old Martin Ray properties is the Mount Eden property. That’s why you even see that Mount Eden clone of Chardonnay is a popular clone growing all over the state now because it’s one of these older, really kind of like California heritage clones and it just had really unique terroir on all parts of that appellation and so … But there is this really kind of, I don’t know, almost wild quality that ties them all together.
The wines are really … It’s probably easier just to say they’re very … They tend to be very bone dry wines. There’s not a lot of extra fruit to them. They kind of just have all the fruit that you really need. Then these other kind of interesting spice and salt qualities and herb qualities that you don’t really get with that same level of consistency in other parts of the state.
JF: Yeah and I mean one of the world’s most iconic wines … World’s most iconic wines, you know, comes from the Santa Cruz mountains. Ridge Monte Bello, I mean I don’t know how many more famous American wines are iconic, like I said, you can think of than that wine.
MK: No, exactly and I mean, there’s Ridge, there’s Mount Eden, there’s actually a lot of cool newer properties up there too where people are really pushing the boundaries. Clos de la Tech is this fascinating property that was started by TJ Rogers who started a … I believe it was Cypress Semi Conductor and he was a Silicon Valley, I think billionaire essentially and he’s taken all of his kind of inventive tech ways but his kind of adherence to like old-world traditions and kind of put them all together at his place up there. It’s one of the most dramatic vineyards I’ve every seen in my life anywhere.
It’s super steep, and then he’s built this really like technologically savvy winery but at the same … So they have all kind of experiments going on where there’s like almost R2D2 looking barrels that are hooked up to Davis and there’s all this kind of feedback that they’re tracking but at the same time, their sorting table is the size of like … It’s actually smaller than my dinner table so there’s still four people that are picking through all these grapes to make wine in a very hands on way, and yet they’re also using a lot of technology there that will probably change and enhance they way wine’s made in the decades to come.
There’s still a lot of creative entrepreneurial spirit up there and it’s really just, it’s a beautiful place to visit. I mean a lot of these properties are on the mountain tops. Big Basin is a great vineyard. They grow really cool Syrah and increasingly Pinot Noir in the middle of nowhere, really, on the top of this mountain ridge that was cleared by French Viticulturist at the turn of the century.
Nowadays you couldn’t get a permit to cut down a bunch of Redwoods, but back then, they were able to do so. They grow, just on literally on the tops of the mountains of the Santa Cruz mountains. You can see the ocean. You can almost see over to the other side of the Bay and it’s just this really dramatic beautiful landscape and quite remote as well, so they’re growing some other things up there too these days I think.
JF: All right and we’re really recording this live. Actually, you’re not in a closet anymore.
JF: You’ve changed locations. Tell me where you are right now.
MK: To have a better connection, I drove down the road from Ken Volks place and now I’m sitting, literally right outside the mouth of Benedicto Vineyards. I could actually go out and grab some of the bud break that’s happening right now on the lower flanks of Benedicto. It’s an iconic vineyard planted in I believe 1972, some of it. I think it’s 900 or so acres. It has some of the best wine in California, and the world really is made from this vineyard.
Especially Chardonnay and Pinot, but they’ve got some cool Grenache and Syrah and some other. They’ve even had Nebbiolo over the years. It’s a pretty big spot so they’ve tested a variety of things. It’s a really dramatic canyon, really, and so it spills out here onto the Santa Maria bench and kind of rolls up the hills but then it goes way back into this canyon that has … It’s framed by these, you know, a very dramatic cut in the front of the canyon and then it spans back to pretty tall mountains going back there.
It’s a pretty cool spot. I actually stayed there one night years ago by myself and rode a bike into the back of the canyon and it was fairly … I don’t know. It gets a little remote that back there. You’re kind of like, deliverance style. Maybe I should get out of here.
JF: It sounds a little spooky.
MK: It is a little bit but you know, that’s what makes good wines. Spooky settings. It’s also incredibly beautiful settings. From here, I can look backwards, I can see River Bench Vineyard, I can see the Cambria Vineyards, I can look across the way and see Cotton Wood Canyon, I can almost see Presqu’ile, Dierberg, Gravino Estates … This is kind of the center part of this area and this is a ranch that was actually settled way back in the early 1800s and has a lot of cool history. It has Adobes on the property and I have a bunch of cars zooming by me probably going from farm to farm. Well, probably going home now but had probably been working in some of the farms around here.
JF: Speaking of home, do you … You live in Santa Barbara?
MK: Yeah, I live in Santa Barbara so I’m about an hour from home right now. Yeah, so I taste all the wine in my house there. It’s delivered to my house pretty much everyday but I’m up in wine country almost every week if not more often and I travel quite a bit up into especially Paso. There’s so much happening there. I was there all last week for two different conferences. I go to the Bay area. I’m from the Bay area originally. I’m from San Jose, so I go up there to visit family quite a bit, especially if you’re from San Jose, you spend as much of your time growing up as you can in Santa Cruz so I’m also up in Santa Cruz and Capital and Aptos and places like that quite frequently.
I’ve traveled this region a lot and actually, you know, I love being an objective journalist but I was at a panel last week and I said, you know, but I do have a strong bias for the Central Coast because I’m from here, I’m a fifth generation San Josian. I’ve lived in Santa Barbara since 1995 and I’ve watched this whole region really grow up back from when … I grew up near the old vines of Mirassou Vineyard in east San Jose, which is now all houses but I’ve watched the rest of the region that hasn’t turned into houses, turn into some pretty fantastic wine countries.
I’m proud to be able to support the region and taste it and get to know all the people that are, you know, giving it a good name.
JF: What is it like to have that kind of connection? Growing up as a kid, you obviously wouldn’t have … You’re not reviewing wines and drinking wines. How is getting so involved and so deep in wine changed how you think about the place that you grew up in and your families been in for generations?
MK: Well, you know, one … A kind of a good example is when I was growing up and I would drive from San Jose down to L.A. to visit the relatives that live down there and you drive through this part of Salinas Valley that is just remote and as a kid I just hated it. It was the most boring part of the drive but as I got older and I started to learn that this was not only where cool wine was made and increasingly where great wine is made, but it was also kind of the salad bowl of the country.
You start to grow just kind of more proud of the fact that this place where you live and travel is really kind of fueling the country and doing a lot of cool things that are kind of overlooked if you’re just passing through. That’s a good spot where my total perspective has changed on what a landscape is and what it delivers. Some of that just comes with age, but some of it comes with learning about what makes land valuable and what’s great about a lot of agriculture … Sure it is a certain level of development, but on the same hand, it’s really kind of preserving a lot of the landscape that would perhaps be otherwise turned into houses.
California, like a lot of the country, but especially California has a big with just over development and houses and strip malls all over the place. I see wine and agriculture in general as being kind of a stop gap to that and being something that’s … Preserving the landscape but also making it useful so that it has value that doesn’t force developers to say, “Oh, let’s just turn this into houses” but also produces a product that people enjoy.
Especially with wine, when you’re eating strawberries from around here, which of, which there’s … I’m looking at a strawberry field right now and there’s many thousands of acres here and they actually command a better price per berry than grape does I think.
MK: Grapes do but you’re talking about, “Oh this is Santa Maria strawberries.” There’s no terroir influence. You’re not reflecting back on the history of the land or what that particular landscape does, but with wine that’s kind of like the big thing now, you know? Is like, oh, not only is this from this particular place but it tastes like this every year. Oh, also this place has this cool backstory. Oh also they have this really funky winemaker who does this or that.
I think wine really kind of ties all that sort of stuff together from history to geography to geology to just, you know, really interesting characters. It’s been most interesting to kind of dive into it and see that aspect first hand pretty much every day now.
JF: Yeah and finally, one of the things, I mean obviously we talked about how big a region the Central Coast is but kind of from what you’re saying … And you know, I’m here now but as far as like if you’re someone who is like, I want to visit wineries and talk to wine makers and taste wines, what is sort of that scene like here? Is it just super casual? Is it well developed? Is it a bit of a work in progress? How is it tourism wise when you [crosstalk 00:30:44]?
MK: You know it’s really … To answer that, it’s really kind of region dependent but you’re seeing a lot of … There’s kind of three main tiers of things. One is just driving yourself to estates and just going up to their tasting room. Those are all pretty casual, super welcoming, and they range in experience from really kind of rustic to a place where there’s bocheball and concerts occasionally and maybe even a little bit of food service.
That’s kind of one way to do it. Another way is to take … And a way that I like to do it if I’m going to really go for it, is to take a wine tour and hire one of these knowledgeable companies that know a good amount about what’s going on around here. Can take you to some cool places, a lot of places that you couldn’t otherwise go to, especially if you’re not in the industry, and you get to taste some wine there.
I would just say in all of these experiences, you know, try to buy some wine. It’s one thing to go have a couple tastes and that’s fun but it’s really … If you’re going to take these people’s time, it’s good to support them by buying at least a little bit of wine too.
The tour is kind of the other aspect and then, when you’re seeing it happen more and more, especially down here in Santa Barbara, but it’s also happening in Paso now, and to some extent, San Luis Obispo is … Are these urban wine experiences where … In the city of Santa Barbara now, you have 20 something wineries, so you can go into the city, walk around and check out a bunch of wineries all in the same place. That’s happening in Los Olivos, that’s happening in Beullton, it happens a little bit in Lompoc, and like I said, it’s happening in more in Paso and points North as well.
To some extent, that’s kind of the main way to do it up in Monterey too. They wouldn’t really call it urban wine because it’s in Carmel by the sea which is this quaint little village but at the same time, if you want to taste Santa Lucia Highlands wine, you can’t really do it in the Santa Lucia Highlands. There’s only two places where that’s open as a possibility.
You really wind up in Carmel or in Monterey, tasting at these kind of more urban tasting rooms, which you lose a little bit of the … Well you cold lose a lot of the magic of visiting an estate and seeing what it takes to take wine from the vine, to the winery, into the bottle, but they’re also really convenient and I think they’ve done a good job of publicizing Santa Barbara wine or Santa Lucia wine, or even Paso wine to the kind of more local consumer, and maybe even to people who didn’t think they were wine tourists but had a few minutes to go check out a tasting room or two and I think that can be a cool entryway for people.
Those are really the three ways, is just kind of visiting an estate yourself, taking a tour, or hitting up these urban wine experiences. I would say most of them are completely casual, super easy to visit, super friendly, really interested in telling you about the regions and they help you buy a little wine too. I always encourage that as much as possible.
JF: Awesome, well Matt, thanks for taking me on this professional and personal tour of the Central Coast. I learned a lot and I think it’s going to give people a lot of excitement to explore the wines and the wineries. Thanks for joining me today from a closet and from the side of the road. Top that. I don’t know who’s going to be able to do that.
MK: I don’t know, but anyway, well thanks for having me and have a good time in Paso. Say hi to all my friends up there while you’re there.
JF: I will.
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JF: Okay that was dramatic and I went through a whole series of emotions.
MK: Where are they putting you up?
JF: At the Inn?
MK: Yep, that place is haunted. Watch out.
JF: Oh, great. Well maybe I’ll sleep in the hot tub on my-
MK: That’s the haunted part. Yeah. All right.
JF: Oh, it is?
MK: No, well-
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Last Updated: June 5, 2023