The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 89 of 112

{ }  89 Although the ocean isn't always visible from the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley appellations, its presence dominates their growing conditions: temperate (almost never above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and even then, only briefly), with one of the longest growing seasons in the state. "In the Edna Valley AVA, it's all about proximity to the sea," says Nathan Carlson, winemaker at Center of Effort Wines. "The Pacific defines our climate and weather patterns, the pace of our ripening. Even the soils were laid down by the ancient oceans." Indeed, Edna Valley soils often ripple with ancient seashells and sand, though the most common earth is dark, loamy clay and organic matter, while Arroyo Grande Valley boasts more volcanic soils. At Edna Valley's western edge, Mike Sinor farms the Bassi Ranch Vineyard for the Sinor-LaVallee label he launched with wife, Cheri LaVallee. Here, the soils are a composite of soft sandstone, sand and some clay, with subsoils of hard marine sandstone that roots barely penetrate. "We're telling a story of place," says Sinor. "The message is soil, and the messenger is wine." Just a few miles' drive north on Hwy 227, the town of San Luis Obispo is home to Cal Poly University and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, whose padres farmed wine grapes there over 200 years ago. The valley's wine history was dormant until the 1970s, when Northern California entrepreneur Jack Niven hired Professors A. J. Winkler from U.C. Davis and Vincent Petrucci from Fresno State University to research locations in California where quality wine grapes might thrive. Independently from each other, both experts identified a little valley outside San Luis Obispo for its potential, and by 1973, Niven had planted 500 acres under 13 varieties to establish the Paragon Vineyard. Seven years later, he launched Edna Valley Vineyards winery, and just two years after that, spearheaded the application for Edna Valley's American Viticulture Area status. Today, Edna Valley Vineyards is owned by Gallo, with winemaker Joe Ibrahim honoring that brand's legacy of well-balanced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, especially. Meanwhile, Jack Niven's second- and third-generation descendants continue to farm Paragon Vineyard (now at 1,100 acres) for Niven Family Wine Estates. There, Burgundy-born winemaker Christian Roguenant oversees the brands Baileyana, Tangent (dedicated to cool-climate alterna- tive white wines), Zocker (Grüner Veltliner and Riesling), Trenza (red blends that bring together Paso Robles and Edna Valley fruit), Cadre (high-end reserve Pinot Noir) and True Myth, a value brand for Edna Valley Chardonnay and Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. "Edna Valley is one of the greatest places on earth for white wines—we've known that for years," says John Niven, grandson of Jack Niven, who planted Paragon Vineyard to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc 40 years ago. "It's our steady-temperature climate, the long growing season. We get ripe fruit as well as the natural acidity to back it." Chardonnay is certainly the flagship variety in Edna Valley, as well as in the Arroyo Grande Valley to the south, where the Talley family oversees the Rincon, Rosemary's, Monte Sereno and Las Ventanas Vineyards, in addition to Oliver's Vineyard and the Stone Corral Vineyard (co-farmed with Kynsi Winery and Stephen Ross Cellars) in Edna Valley. "Chardonnay [from the AG Valley] tends to have a strong lemon/citrus element," says third-generation Arroyo Grande farmer Brian Talley, of Talley Vineyards. "Edna Valley wines tend to be a bit more tropical. Arroyo Grande wines [are] more citrus- and mineral-driven." Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee Wines among Pinot Gris vines at Bassi Ranch Vineyard. Exposed subsoils of hardened sand and sandstone at Edna Valley's Bassi Ranch, just 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2015