By Sue Ryan,
Testarossa Lead Wine Educator

California has a new AVA! Welcome SLO Coast/San Luis Obispo Coast AVA (both names have been approved).

AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, a legally designated grape growing region in the USA. To become an AVA you must file a petition with the TTB that details the geographical boundaries of the proposed AVA, along with maps, and what distinguishes this area from surrounding areas, like topography or microclimates. The USA has 261 AVAs with 143 of them being in California.

SLO Coast MapThe SLO Coast AVA is part of the larger Central Coast AVA (from South San Francisco to Santa Barbara County). Arroyo Grande Valley and Edna Valley are now part of the SLO Coast AVA. This new AVA is 60 miles long, stretching from Cambria down to Santa Maria. It is 15 miles wide with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Santa Lucia Mountain Range is to the east. There 78 vineyards with almost 4,000 acres under vine.

Producers in Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande wanted this new AVA and the name to reflect where the grapes are grown. SLO Coast is one of the coolest growing regions in California. With almost all the vineyards within 6 miles of the Pacific Ocean, the cool air settles in the valleys, while the vineyards also receive lots of sunlight. The cool temperatures helps to retain acidity making fresh, vibrant, and elegant wine, reflecting the costal climate.

SLO Coast topography consists of coastal terraces, foothills, and small valleys, with western orientation and elevations below 1800ft. Most of the vines are planted under 500ft in elevation on benchlands and hills. The soils in the northern part of SLO Coast are sedimentary with sandstone and shale. Further south the soils are derived from marine deposits and include sand and loam. Inland some soils formed from volcanic intrusion. The coastline consists of wind deposits and sand dunes.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive in this cool climate region and really shine here. Albarino, Riesling, Zinfandel, Grenache and Syrah are also becoming favorites with growers and consumers alike.

Two of our most loved vineyards at Testarossa Winery are the Rincon and Rosemary’s vineyards from Arroyo Grande Valley. Brian Talley is the owner of these vineyards and the Talley family are pioneers in this wine growing region. The outstanding farming practices and exceptional soils bring us wonderful grapes to make beautiful wines. The wines from Rosemary’s and Rincon Vineyard are elegant and vibrant with beautiful layers of fruit. They truly reflect the cool climate of the SLO Coast.

I recently made Brian’s recipe for Santa Maria Steak and Rancho beans and had it with a 2016 Rincon Pinot Noir. Just perfect.
Let me know if you want the recipe!

Starting in April 2022, producers will be able add SLO Coast AVA to their labels. Now when choosing wines and you see this designation on the label you will know that this wine is grown in a cool, coastal climate!

Cheers to the new SLO Coast AVA!