Arroyo Grande AVA
Located in San Luis Obispo County (about 200 miles north of Los Angeles on the 101 Freeway) it is part of the larger Central Coast AVA. The area is split into two distinct growing environments, a warmer valley region where Rhone varietals flourish and a cooler, fog encrusted area closer to the ocean at elevation where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown.
Often times, like many wine regions, people think of the winery map and the vineyard map as being interchangeable. In this case, unlike pretty much all others, they are.
The Edna Valley is getting to be fairly well known at this point, but the Arroyo Grande AVA has largely lagged behind. It sits directly to the south and has many of the same positive features. First and foremost, the Arroyo Grande AVA has a long and slow growing season. The Central Coast in its entirety is pretty cool during the summer, I mean as much as the Santa Barbara locals tend to talk about how they’re the “French Riviera in America”…….it just isn’t all that warm very often.
For tourists, that might be an issue, but for grapes it’s quite good. A long and moderate growing season allows the grapes to both gain enough sugar since California is still sunny, but not lose their acidity as they might in the much, much warmer inland valley’s of the state.
Part of the fun part about the Arroyo Grande though is that, there is available land and it is cheap enough for vintners and growers to actually experiment in a region they feel good about. Too often in California wine, regions are completely spoken for, unless they’re considered somewhat less desirable. As an example, good luck planting anything other than Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley, but you can move 45 miles north into Lake County and actually give some different varietals a try. Likewise, Sonoma is home to Pinot now (despite my best pleas over Grenache), but Mendocino County has a larger variety.
In any case, if you want to find something a bit underpriced, for the value you’re getting the Arroyo Grande AVA is a good place to look on the California Central Coast.