Log in for prices and ordering

AVA Navigation: Central Coast, California

AVA Navigation: Central Coast, California

California’s Central Coast spans the coastline from San Francisco Bay in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. The region contains 40 AVAs, including Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara. It’s planted to 40,000 hectares of vines, with Chardonnay accounting for more than half of this. Most vineyards are located in valleys exposed to coastal influences in the form of morning fog and cool breezes.

Santa Cruz Mountains

The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was established in 1981 and lies west of Silicon Valley. It spans over 130,000 hectares and is home to varied topography ranging from high-altitude vineyards surrounded by redwood trees to sun-trap valley floor sites and more coastal lands. Elevation ranges from 100-1000 metres. Land under vine is just over 600 hectares.

The moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean provides a wide diurnal range and varieties span Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon. Confusingly, a portion of Santa Cruz County is included in the overarching Central Coast AVA, but the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is not.

Besson Vineyard, Birichino

Contra Costa

Contra Costa lies to the east of San Francisco Bay and is home to vineyards that are contained by smaller AVAs within the greater Central Coast AVA, as well as vineyards that are not incorporated into any AVA. The region enjoys a wide diurnal range, and the soils are predominantly sandy. The area is famed for producing Rhône varieties and Zinfandel.

Monterey

South of San Francisco County and the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey is a region that expanded in the wake of Napa and Sonoma’s success, with the Salinas and Carmel Valleys planted extensively. Monterey gained AVA status in 1984 and is named for the county that contains it. It is the largest AVA in the region and contains a number of sub-AVAs. Its land mass extends the length of the county and incorporates many climates, varieties and terrains. Elevations range from zero to 700 metres.

A wide range of varieties are planted, from Pinot Noir to Zinfandel, but Chardonnay accounts for more than half of the AVA. To the north, cooler conditions prevail, including morning fogs and ocean breezes. In contrast, the climate is much warmer to the south, with summer temperatures often reaching close to 40 degrees Celsius.

Chalone

Chalone AVA was recognised in 1982. It’s a sub-AVA located in the Gabilan Mountain Range against the backdrop of the Pinnacles National Park. Its 120 hectares under vine are home to some of the oldest vine material in Monterey County.

The elevated position here—365 to 700 metres—provides a wide diurnal range. Soils range from coarse loam to limestone and granite. Low rainfall, cool conditions and very old vine material generally result in low yields. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do very well.

Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands is planted to just over 1900 hectares of vines, mainly on the Santa Lucia Mountain Range terraces facing southeast, overlooking the Salinas River Valley. Elevations range from 100 to 700 metres. AVA status was awarded in 1991.

The climate is cool, with steady temperatures. The vines see morning sunshine and cool oceanic breezes in the afternoon—giving a wide diurnal range and long growing season. Monterey’s greatest Pinot Noir expressions can be found here.

Paso Robles

This giant appellation covers almost 250,000 hectares, of which 16,000 are planted to vines. Paso, as it is often called, is divided into 11 sub-regions, with the westernmost parts cooled by weather from the San Luis Obispo Coast. It significantly contributes to the state’s Cabernet Sauvignon harvest but has also become known for Rhône varieties thanks to notable producers like Tablas Creek, Bonny Doon and Alban.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara marks the southern end of the Central Coast AVA at Point Conception, where the California coastline takes a sharp turn and develops an east-to-west orientation. The parallel mountain ranges of San Rafael and Santa Ynez funnel cool maritime influence inland up the valley. The inland Sierra Madre Mountains protect the region on a third side.

The climate here is remarkably temperate considering its latitude, and rainfall is low. Santa Barbara contains seven AVAs, and although it has become well-known as a wine region, Santa Barbara itself is a county rather than an AVA. Santa Maria Valley AVA sits alone on the northern end in the foothills of the San Rafael Mountains. The Alisos AVA sits between the two mountain ranges, and the Santa Ynez Valley AVA holds the remaining appellations.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate the landscape, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Syrah, Grüner Veltliner and Grenache also succeed here.

Santa Ynez Valley

The Santa Ynez Valley AVA is located 160 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara County, where the coastline sharply bends to lie east-west rather than north-south. It’s nestled between three mountain ranges―Santa Ynez, San Rafael and Sierra Madre―that rise up from the Pacific coastline to 300 metres. The mountains run east to west, exposing the slopes to the cool air and fog from the Pacific Ocean and moderating the region's warm temperatures.

The Wines

Other Recent Releases

  • Thomas Wines
    Thomas Wines
    After 30 years of making world-class Hunter Valley Shiraz, Andrew Thomas’s passion for ...
    After 30 years of making world-class Hunter Valley Shiraz, Andrew Thomas’s passion for the variety and his region hasn’t budged an inch. It has all...

    Read more

  • Mayacamas & Philip Togni
    Mayacamas & Philip Togni
    Where to start with Mayacamas Vineyards? How about with the words of Eric Asimov: “A le...
    Where to start with Mayacamas Vineyards? How about with the words of Eric Asimov: “A legendary purveyor of classically structured, ageworthy Napa V...

    Read more

  • Bondar
    Bondar
    Who says nice guys finish last? It’s been a great twelve months for Andre Bondar and Se...
    Who says nice guys finish last? It’s been a great twelve months for Andre Bondar and Selina Kelley. Not only was Bondar crowned the Dux of the 2023...

    Read more

  • Meadowbank
    Meadowbank
    From the moment Peter Dredge joined forces with the Ellis family, Meadowbank has not mi...
    From the moment Peter Dredge joined forces with the Ellis family, Meadowbank has not missed a beat. Vintage 2023 continues this partnership’s stell...

    Read more

  • Robert Weil
    Robert Weil
    If you know where to look, 2022 is manna from heaven for Riesling lovers. We had the pl...
    If you know where to look, 2022 is manna from heaven for Riesling lovers. We had the pleasure of Robert Weil’s Nicolas Langer’s company in the trad...

    Read more

  • Place of Changing Winds
    Place of Changing Winds
    Today, we offer the Place of Changing Winds (POCW) Grower Series wines, mainly from the...
    Today, we offer the Place of Changing Winds (POCW) Grower Series wines, mainly from the cooler, later-ripening 2022 season. These wines are the pro...

    Read more

  • Toolangi
    Toolangi
    What is it they say—behind every great winemaker, there is a great viticulturist? The r...
    What is it they say—behind every great winemaker, there is a great viticulturist? The recent return of seasoned viticulturist John Evans marks anot...

    Read more

  • Bannockburn
    Bannockburn
    Between celebrated slam dunks and fadeaways, basketball legend Michael Jordan once said...
    Between celebrated slam dunks and fadeaways, basketball legend Michael Jordan once said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win cham...

    Read more

  • Spinifex
    Spinifex
    There’s not much Pete Schell turns his hand to that doesn’t turn to gold, and his rosé,...
    There’s not much Pete Schell turns his hand to that doesn’t turn to gold, and his rosé, considered a benchmark by many and a brilliant wine by all,...

    Read more

View All Offers

More Content

Birichino