So I lived on the Central Coast for 5 years and I thought I knew the region pretty well. After all, between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, there’s a number of small towns, but with only one real way to get from one region to the other along the coast (the inland valley isn’t really relevant when you sell wine for more than $20 per bottle, so I can discount the 5 and stick to only spots off the 101).
Then I started seeing more and more Edna Valley Pinot Noir and I had to take a minute to find where the Edna Valley was on the map.
A couple of years ago, grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands started getting sold for increasingly ridiculous price points, so many small vintners were forced to look for cooler climate Pinot Noir elsewhere.
Enter the Edna Valley which is located just to the east of the Santa Lucia mountains and the Pinot fruit that everyone started bidding up. So it makes sense and it makes even more sense when you realize that this is a valley that runs east-west instead of North-South. In wine grape growing that’s incredibly important because the cool winds off the ocean, the fog, get to take a straight shot into your vineyard. The folks on the central coast would argue this is California’s coldest winegrowing region in large part because it’s 5 miles from the coast. If I’m being honest about it, sure if you’re grading an entire AVA that’s likely true. But, the true Sonoma Coast is significantly colder, like bring a jacket to the beach during the summer cold, borderline miserable during the winter. Edna Valley isn’t miserable at any point, the central coast is too Mediterranean for that, but this is hardly Santa Monica, Del Mar or Coronado.
So what was the 2015 vintage like? This in many ways, thank God for vintners, was the peak of the drought. The vintage was considered to be both early and light. For cooler climate varieties like the Pinot Noir and say Gewurztraminer, that’s quite ok. After all, most of the reason that people are looking toward these varietals and these spots, is for their acidity.
But, there was a very real problem: the general lack of fruit. For most of the folks that I work with, they’re too small to own their own vineyard, or if they do, it’s only a few acres and they’re still buying a significant portion of their fruit elsewhere. While the big boys have largely changed from buying grapes by the ton, to buying them by the acre-for the smallest players growers aren’t making that change. Quite honestly, they’ve been taught hard lessons, sometimes smaller wineries and winemakers don’t pay their bills on time, or at all. So they’ll only sell them fruit by the ton, after all, at least they can still control the farming then and sell the fruit elsewhere if someone backs out at the last minute. What this all means, if you’re buying fruit by the ton and if a vintage is down 50% from it’s normal levels, the biggest contracts get the fruit first and the little guys, might not get fruit at all.
All that is to say, these “entry” level Pinot Noir offerings (and yes, unfortunately entry level prices for Pinot are about $20 in California, we simply cannot grow all that much fruit on any given acre) may be tough to come by in 2015. As a sourcing issue for a wine club, that can be an issue, so I was happy to jump on this and get it out now.