San Luis Obispo Coast was awarded on 9 March, 2022 by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The new AVA establishes a 97 kilometer-long strip along California that locals call SLO (slow) Coast, describing the Pacific Ocean’s influence on the area’s culture and lifestyle, terrain, and wines.
SLO Coast is located midway between two major California cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Burgundy varieties making up a majority of San Luis Obispo Coast’s high-end wine production.
The area is anchored by San Luis Obispo, a major university town, and Pismo Beach where the Oceano Dunes Preserve showcases one of the most expansive coastal dunes left in California.
Stephen Dooley, president of SLO Coast Wine Collective, who started making wine in the area in 1987, said: ‘The SLO Coast 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.’
The group of 32 wineries that make up the SLO Coast Wine Collective applied for the AVA in 2017. Collectively, they made a case for the designation based on its unique geography, geology, and topography — particularly its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
‘Ninety-seven percent of our vineyards are planted six 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 over 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.’
The new AVA comprises 165,348ha along the coastal benchlands, hillsides, and valleys between the Pacific and the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains. It is at most only 24 kilometers wide. The soils range from marine to volcanic, and the prevailing climate is among the most pronounced of any wine region in California.
Ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Such cool temps have provided ideal growing conditions primarily focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Oceano Wines is one of the many acclaimed wineries within the new AVA. They specialize in single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Spanish Springs vineyard, producing fresh, focused, mineral-driven wines that capture the essence of the area.
With 78 vineyards and 1,595ha planted to vines, the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA is increasingly popular for aromatic varieties such as Albariño, Riesling, and Grüner Veltliner as well as ideal for cool-climate reds, such as Grenache Syrah, and Lagrein.
The AVA 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.
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 allows producers to use either “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” on their labels.
Members of the SLO Coast Wine Collective
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 Company, 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.