Travel, Teach, Live in the USA and Canada
My spouse and I have traveled through California many times on my way to see family in Monterey. We have traveled the "101" up the coast from Los Angeles and have used I-5 as well. Everywhere you go in this part of California you will see grapes grown. California can brag that it produces about 90 percent of the total wine production in the U.S. Many say that if California were a country it would be the fourth largest wine producer in the world behind only France, Spain and Italy.
You cannot tour California's entire wine country in a short period; it is wide spread and with too many different wineries. It must be broken down into logical visitation stops and with a clear base camp of operations from which to travel. Generally, the eleven wine growing regions in California are located in the coastal counties from Mendocino County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. Other wine production can be found near Lodi and in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.
One of our favorite "base camps" on the "101" route is the town of Paso Robles about 30 miles south of San Luis Obispo. Paso Robles was aptly named in the 1800's because of the huge oak trees that characterize the area. Franciscan Friars, in the late 1700's, planted the first grape vines in the area. Grape vines became a common addition to the grounds of early Spanish Missions that were built in the area. As in most areas, Prohibition set the local wine industry back, but new generations of wine growers have steadily increased vineyard plantings and wine production since the late 1960's. There are now over 200 wineries currently operational in the area around Paso Robles. The wine production future of the area in terms of both quantity and quality is definitely on the rise.
Key leading grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel. Paso Robles enjoys a long grape-growing season due to the cool nights, warm days and late season rains. The grapes grown in this area are held on the vine typically longer than other California grape growing areas; resulting in fully mature fruit. Soils in the area are typically high pH and are primarily derived from bedrock materials like weathered granite, volcanic rocks and various ages of marine sedimentary rocks. Other wine growing areas outside the central coast are geologically different and most often are characterized by fertile valleys with deep loam soils.
Touring the wine country using Paso Robles as your home base is relatively easy. A day trip could be made by heading east of town on State Route 46F. Another trip could be planned by heading south on Highway 101 to State Route 46E. There are literally vineyards everywhere you go. The Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) comprises 614 thousand acres with more than 26 thousand acres in grape vines. This AVA lies on the inland side of the Santa Lucia coastal range with its western border just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Touring wineries in the area will keep you busy but the beauty of the landscape around you will keep you smiling.
Visiting Paso Robles will definitely result in your adding some new wines to your favorites. As I always say, buy the wine you like, store wine properly in a wine cooler, serve it at the proper temperature and enjoy it immensely.
Author: Ron Senn, Vice-president Ideal Wine Coolers, Tucson, Arizona
Ideal Wine Coolers offers a wide selection of products to address your wine and beer cooling needs.
We also have a blog that you can visit.