Home Industry News Releases The San Luis Obispo Coast Named by TTB As Wine’s Newest AVA

The San Luis Obispo Coast Named by TTB As Wine’s Newest AVA

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The coveted viticultural designation recognizes the distinctive character of California Central Coast wines shaped by cool Pacific Ocean breezes.

San Luis Obispo, CA; March 9, 2022 — The SLO Coast Wine Collective is proud to announce the San Luis Obispo Coast is the newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), a designation awarded March 9, 2022 by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The AVA establishes a long, narrow strip of land along California’s pristine Central Coast as a unique grape-growing region that produces wine with character that is particular to the area.

Stephen Dooley is the President of SLO Coast Wine and started making wine in the area in 1987. He points out that the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA is “Really cool! No pun intended, but we are one of the coldest spots to grow grapes because we are so close to the Pacific Ocean. What makes this area interesting is the low temperatures coupled with a lot of sunlight. Cool temperatures preserve acid and in grapes like Pinot Noir, the sun helps with pigment, color, and tannin.” The San Luis Obispo Coast AVA’s soils range from marine to volcanic depending on the location of the vineyard.

The new AVA spans about 60 miles from San Simeon in the north to Nipomo in the south, but is at most only 15 miles wide, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. 

The San Luis Obispo Coast AVA’s 78 vineyards have 3,942 acres planted to vines — most famously, to premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But over the past decade a more diverse list of grape varieties has taken root here, too: Albariño, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the leading aromatic whites, while the cool growing conditions continue to prove exemplary for red varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Lagrein.

The SLO Coast Wine Collective, a group of 32 wineries making wine from grapes grown within the region, applied for the SLO Coast AVA in 2017, making a case for the designation based on the area’s unique geography, geology and topography — and in particular, its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

“Ninety-seven percent of our vineyards are planted 6 or fewer miles from the Pacific,” said Aaron Jackson, winemaker at Aequorea Wines and author of the AVA application. “Based on annual Growing Degree Day data retrieved from 30+ weather stations in the area, the SLO Coast AVA is the coolest temperature AVA in California. Diurnal temperature shift, wind, and fog are reflected by this measurement, as are the character and quality of the grapes grown here. These cool conditions can be tough on the growers but they give the winemakers so much to work with.”

The region’s grapevines are planted along the coastal benchlands, hillsides and valleys between the Pacific and the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains. This range stretches from Big Sur down through San Luis Obispo County, trapping the chill coastal wind and fog against its slopes and channeling them throughout the AVA. That keeps vineyard temperatures cool and mild compared with other wine growing regions in the state, and even regions just a few miles north in the same county.

Those low temperatures provide the SLO Coast AVA with a prolonged growing season that gives grapes more time to develop complexity. These wines tend to exhibit more fresh fruit and focused acidity than wines grown over the hill in the warmer northeastern part of the county, and the alcohol levels are moderated by the temperature as well. The result is wines that accompany food beautifully while exhibiting an inherent elegance and finesse.

Wineries that also fall within the smaller Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs are permitted to use the appellation they feel best represents their wines. The new AVA also permits producers to use either “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” on their labels.

Since the first AVA was granted by the TTB in 1980, the program has created benchmarks that benefit consumers by defining the country’s grape-growing regions. The designations are granted based on distinguishable geographic or climactic features and their effect on the area’s viticulture. The petition for the SLO Coast AVA was submitted to the TTB by the SLO Coast Wine Collective in July 2017 and the final ruling was published on [DATE]. 

Members of the SLO Coast Wine Collective include Absolution Cellars, Aequorea, Autry Cellars, Baileyana, Tangent and True Myth wineries, Biddle Ranch Vineyard, Cal Poly Winery, Center of Effort, Chamisal Vineyards, Claiborne & Churchill Winery, Croma Vera Wines, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Dunites Wine Co, Edna Valley Vineyard, El Lugar Wines, Filipponi Ranch, Kynsi Winery, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Maidenstoen Wine, Niner Wine Estates, Oceano Wines, Peloton Cellars, Piedra Creek Winery, Ragtag Wine Co, Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Sinor-LaVallee, Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Stolo Vineyards, Talley Vineyards, Timbre Winery, Tolosa, Verdad & Lindquist Family Wines and Wolff Vineyards.

The SLO Coast Wine Collective

Our 32 members encompass vineyards and wineries along the 60-mile-long region between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountain Range called the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA. This is considered the coolest-climate winegrowing region in California and has long been the source of some of the state’s most respected Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It has recently won renown for its production of aromatic grape varieties such as Albariño, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Website: https://slocoastwine.com/  

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