Q. What makes the Central Coast unique as a wine-growing region?
A. The large swath of California that is the legal Central Coast appellation is made up of a maze of distinct sub-regions with soils and weather patterns so varied that the diversity of wine that can thrive is astonishing. Lovers of everything from cabernet to pinot noir, zinfandel to cold-weather syrah, and viognier to chardonnay can be happy here. Along with that range, I see a spirit of innovation among wine growers and makers that is putting the region on the leading edge of many wine trends and producing fascinating wines.
Q. How has the region's reputation changed over the years?
A. I remember years ago, referring to Santa Barbara’s wine valleys as “emerging,” and Paso Robles as “up-and-coming.” In my view, the entire Central Coast is all grown up as a wine region. It might once have been the playground of pioneers and maverick winemakers, but now it’s the first choice for many of this country’s most-respected vintners.
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Q. Name a few of your favorite local wines.
A. Only a few?! That’s tough. I’m a white wine lover, and a bottle of Tangent Albariño from the South County makes me really happy — as do any of Talley’s gorgeous chardonnays. From Paso, Cypher’s Grenache Blanc, Tablas Creek’s Patelin de Tablas Blanc, L’Aventure’s rosé (oops, that’s pink). On the red front, give me a Denner Rhône blend — The Dirt Worshipper or The Ditch Digger — or one of Kenneth Volk’s Spanish or Portuguese renditions: Tempranillo or Touriga, respectively. And for a taste of Paso’s crazy, skillful blending: Kukkula’s i.p.o., Lone Madrone’s The Will, Thacher’s Controlled Chaos, Treana’s Red and Vina Robles’ Signature.
Q. What are some of the exciting food and wine trends Central Coast residents can expect to see in the coming months?
A. On the wine front, I’m hearing more and more about the lesser-known Rhône grapes — roussanne, marsanne and picpoul blanc in whites, and counoise, carignane and cinsault in red.
I think the Central Coast will become the destination for people to explore the Rhônes they’ve never heard of.
Q. What is your favorite food-wine pairing?
A. If I could get a LaZarre Albariño and Artisan’s abalone tostada with avocado and pork belly carnitas in the same room at the same time, I think that would be my newest favorite pairing.
Q. If you could share a glass of wine with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
A. John Cleese. Anyone who has caused that many laughs in the world and knows the magic of wine would be a treat to share a glass with.