San Luis Obispo County (SLO CAL) is known for great wine. But did you know that SLO CAL has over 80 sparkling wine producers? Find them from Paso Robles wine country to the City of San Luis Obispo, into Arroyo Grande and over to Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. These local bubblies cover a large range of styles, from French classics made in the same method as Champagne, to Italian-style Proseccos and fresh and fun sparklers made in the “ancient style” known as Pét-Nat. You’ll even find fun grape varieties such as sparkling Viognier, Grenache and Syrah.

No matter how it’s made, local sparkling wine is the perfect addition to your SLO CAL visit. Local bubblies help us toast our milestones and say, "Hey, you did it!” Here we believe any celebration deserves its moment in the fizzy spotlight. Sparkling wine tends to be lower in alcohol and sugar than other types of wine, and it can be paired with virtually any food. It’s pretty much the crème de la crème when it comes to sipping and savoring.

Read on to learn more about sparkling wine, plus where you can taste and buy local bubbles here in SLO CAL.

View of hills and vinesWhat is Sparkling Wine:

California Sparkling Wine can’t be called Champagne—it’s not from the Champagne region of France—but much of our SLO CAL sparkling is made in the same Méthode Champenoise as its famous namesake, or Pét-Nats (short for pétillant naturel), the oldest method of making sparkling wine.

Sparkling wine happens when grapes are fermented and bottled under pressure. The carbon dioxide produced during fermentation is captured in the bottle and creates bubbles. So, when you open the bottle, you get that Champagne pop and plenty of fizziness…as well as lots of smiles!

There are several main methods in making sparkling wine, each contributing to its character and flavor:

  • Traditional Method or Champagne Method: This method, utilized in Champagne production, involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, where a mixture of yeast and sugar is added to the base wine. Producers making Cava in Spain and Franciacorta, Italy or other parts of France use the Traditional Method as well.
  • Charmat Method: This involves conducting the secondary fermentation in large pressurized tanks, resulting in a crisper, fruitier profile. This is a common production process for Prosecco from Italy.
  • Ancestral Method or Pétillant Naturel (Pét-Nat): This is the oldest technique, and involves bottling the wine before the primary fermentation completes, allowing carbon dioxide produced during fermentation to naturally carbonate the wine. This wine can be a little cloudy, with unusual flavors. It’s the easiest way to make bubbly wine in a bottle. 
Sparkling Wine Regions & Grapes

Today, sparkling wine production is a global phenomenon! From the days of French widows—les Veuves—taking over Champagne houses in the 1800s to the modern days of sparkling wine being made in almost 79 countries around the world, sparkling wine has evolved dramatically.

The three most commonly used grape varieties for sparkling wine production are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but many other grape varieties are used around the world to make sparkling wine (even cider is a type of sparkling apple wine). Here in California, we have a lot of experimental winemakers trying all kinds of grapes to get different types of sparkly styles.

Terroir in SLO CAL Sparkling Wine

Terroir plays a crucial role in sparkling wine production, where elements like soil, climate, topography and grape varieties work together to shape the characteristics of the wine.

SLO CAL is renowned for its ideal conditions for growing grapes destined for sparkling wine production. Our region benefits from a maritime climate characterized by cool temperatures and foggy mornings, moderated by the proximity to the Pacific Ocean. These conditions are reminiscent of the terroir found in Champagne, France, lending themselves well to grape varieties like the classics: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Also, the diverse microclimates on the Central Coast allow for the cultivation of many different grapes that can be picked early for bubbly wines. The combination of cool climate, diverse terroir and skilled winemaking expertise has established SLO CAL as a premier region for producing high-quality sparkling wines in California.

Bottle of wine and oysters on a picnic tableWhere to Find SLO CAL Sparkling Wine:

Sparkling wine production is a very labor-intensive process, as well as expensive for the winery. Some wineries perform every step of the process in-house, some harvest and ferment local grapes, and then finish the bubbles off-site, and others elect to manage the whole process off-site (with a partner who owns all the equipment). Therefore, local sparkling wine is not always available by the taste or glass.

If you enjoy the winery’s white wines, you’ll probably enjoy their bubblies as well. And you can always ask for a glass or taste; and you just might get it here in SLO CAL—our winemakers are casual and pretty rad. Get the details at the SLO CAL map from Central Coast Bubbles creator, Liz Dodder. Note: Some wineries only sell their sparkling wine to members or online, which you'll find noted on the wine map.

Paso Robles North

San Miguel is a historic town just north of Paso Robles and contains the northernmost vineyards in the County. This area has a neighborly feel and it’s an easy and laid-back wine trail. There are 6 small, family-owned wineries in this area producing sparkling wine, with most pouring sparkling glasses or flights during holiday weekends. Leon Tackitt, of Tackitt Family Wines, is one of the winemakers making his bubbly entirely in-house and will soon offer this service to other wineries so they can keep their production local.

Paso Robles East

The east side of Paso Robles has one of the area’s pioneers in sparkling wine. Rava is SLO CAL’s first winery to specialize in estate grown, sparkling wines crafted in the traditional method and also made entirely in-house (they also offer finishing service to other wineries). Rava makes Champagne-style sparkling wine: Brut and Blanc de Blancs from Chardonnay and Blanc de Noir from Pinot Noir. But they also like to experiment with other grapes like Grüner Veltliner and Grenache, making a lovely Sparkling Rosé. All sparkling wine is made in the time-honored technique used in Champagne, creating traditional flavors of yeasty brioche and pleasant acidity underneath notes of fruit.

There are over 14 Sparkling Wine producers on Paso’s East side made in various styles. Paris Valley Road (sister winery to Sextant) is another winery performing the entire Sparkling production in-house.

Paso Robles West

The west side of Paso Robles, California is known for its unique topography and family-owned boutique wineries. It gets more rain, ocean breezes and fog than the far east side. This is a very popular area, with over 21 Bubblies on this Sparkling Wine Trail!

Haliotide (sold online only) is SLO CAL’s first sparkling-dedicated brand, brought to you by Nicole Pope, formerly of Stolo vineyards. Called “one of the most exciting sparkling wine programs in the United States” by the San Franciso Chronicle, Haliotide crafts California sparkling wine in the traditional method from grapes grown exceptionally close to the Pacific Ocean, all in-house and all by-hand.

Niner Wine Estates also has a Traditional-Method Sparkling Wine program that’s all in-house and by-hand. Their main goal is to keep sparkling levels small enough to be able to keep the sparkling wine truly artisan, which means the level of quality will always be high. They craft a range of different bubblies, all with different flavor profiles.

More fun sparklers in this area are traditional bubblies like Sparkling Viognier at Four Lanterns and Sparkling Picpoul Blanc at Halter Ranch (also Sexant Bubbles) plus many fun Pét-Nats like Alta Colina, Lone Madrone, and Thacher.

Further west in Cambria, just a few miles from the Pacific, you’ll find celebrity sommelier-turned-winemaker Raj Parr making traditional and ancestral-method sparkling wines for various wine labels at his new spot at Stolo Vineyards.

Downtown Paso & Tin City

Downtown Paso Robles is built around a charming, historic square, where you can meander through a sparkling wine trail of 16 including Hayseed (traditional made all in-house), and PasoSecco (the area’s only local Prosecco-style wine).

Heading south, Tin City is a newer, funky community of craft drink makers (and a Michelin-star restaurant!) where you can join a Bubbles Club at Field Recordings and try the newest bubbles-only brand Scarab, available at Desparada.

San Luis Obispo & the Beaches

There are 9 places to get bubbles in the City of San Luis Obispo and our southern beach cities. Highlights in San Luis Obispo for traditional sparkling wine are Stephen Ross, Deovlet, and Dunites, plus Timbre makes the only locally produced Prosecco-style bubbles in SLO CAL.

Make sure to visit Sinor-Lallee in Avila Beach for traditional sparkling wine and Pét-Nats, perfectly paired with an oyster Shuck Shack and caviar service on weekends. And the most lively and spirited (and Instagram-able) place of all is Cali Love Wine in Pismo Beach; try a fun flight or a unique mimosa.

Edna Valley & Arroyo Grande Valley

These 10 producers are in gorgeous locations, set amongst rolling hills and vineyard views and in close proximity to each other. You can’t go wrong with the Champagne-style bubblies at Baileyana, Biddle Ranch, Center of Effort, Chamisal (also with caviar service), Claiborne & Churchill and Wolff. Talley also has various releases of sparkling wines and Timbre has another tasting room in the Arroyo Grande Village for its Charmat-style bubbles.

Laetitia Vineyards & Winery in Arroyo Grande has a sparkling wine heritage going back to the early 80s, when it was produced at the same location by Maison Deutz, a Champagne maker from France. Since taking it over in 1997, Laetitia has been the Grande Dame of Sparkling Wine on the Central Coast, with 7 different sparkling bottlings at various times of the year.

No matter which area in SLO CAL, you’re sure to find plenty of local bottles to pop. Make these local sparkling wines a part of your next celebration!

Photos courtesy of: Central Coast Bubbles