The Central Coast of California (Continued)

This week we are moving south within the Central Coast and taking a closer look at the Paso Robles AVA, located in San Luis Obispo County, approximately halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. At 614,000 acres, Paso Robles (Spanish for “Pass of the Oaks”) is California’s largest AVA, with 28,000 acres currently under cultivation. Unlike the rest of the Central Coast areas which all share the cooling influences of the nearby Pacific Ocean, Paso Robles is almost entirely shielded on its western side by the Santa Lucia Range, and as a result, daytime summer temperatures are often above 90̊F.
However, at night a cool marine layer moves in along the Salinas River and through a gap in the mountain range called The Templeton Gap. The cooling effect often causes nighttime summer temperatures to drop by as much as 50̊F, creating the largest day to night temperature shift of any region in California. The combination of the hot summer days and dramatically cooler nights, plus very little rainfall during the peak growing season allows Paso Robles grapes to be harvested at full maturity while retaining balanced acidity.
Due to the unique climate conditions and a variety of soil compositions, Paso Robles has a long history of making and growing wine. Vines were first planted by Franciscan missionaries beginning in the late-1700s, and commercial wine production has been ongoing since the late-1800s. The area is now home to over 180 wineries, with a broad mix of large producers and boutique wineries that produce some world-class Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Two of the most successful mid-sized wineries in Paso Robles are Liberty School and Treana Winery, both operated by the Hope family. Originally called Hope Family Farms, the Hope’s planted Cabernet Sauvignon in Paso Robles in 1978, and sold most of their fruit to Napa growers. In the early 1980s, Chuck Wagner, who founded Caymus Vineyards, began buying fruit from the Hope’s to use in production of his second label, Liberty School. Shortly after the establishing their own winery, Treana in 1996, the Hopes acquired the Liberty School label, later adding a Central Coast Chardonnay, Syrah and, more recently, Liberty School Cuvée, which is a blend of Rhone-style varietals including Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier.

Liberty School Chardonnay Central Coast 2009
Appearance: a day bright golden color
Aroma: light green apple tones, with a hint of smoke and oak nuances
Flavors: creamy baked apple and citrus notes
Finishing Notes: crisp and light with true chardonnay characteristics, hints of baking spices on a long clean finish

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2008:
Appearance: deep burgundy red
Aroma: black cherry, vanilla, cassis, black plum and blackberry aromas
Flavors: fruit flavors continue with an added hint of some herbal tones
Finishing Notes: the dark fruit carries to the finish that ends in a dark chocolate chalkiness, well balanced and invites a second glass

Food Pairing:
– Chardonnay: pairs well with nuts, sweet spices, white mushrooms, onions and garlic used in sauces, butter or cream, melted mild cheeses, and most other rich flavors in dishes
– Cabernet Sauvignon: works with most red meats, grilled, smoked or wood planked dishes bring out the oak characters, also dishes with black pepper and more herbal elements

Perfect Pairing:
– Chardonnay: Hazelnut crusted chicken breast with a prosciutto cream sauce with button mushrooms
– Cabernet Sauvigon: Cracked black peppercorn encrusted beef filet with a red wine demi glace

Weekly Wine Trivia
What is the meteorological term that relates to the variation in day to night temperature shifts?

Email your answer to Karl & Jody at [email protected]. The first correct answer in their inbox will receive a complimentary bottle of wine from them. Cheers!

Last week’s trivia:
Name the Santa Lucia Highlands wine named after the sun and sea influences of the area.

Answer: Mer Soleil
Congratulations to our winner for last week’s wine trivia, thanks for all the responses! Good luck this week.