The following article was published by the Chicago Tribune. The full article can be seen here.
Off Cali's beaten path
Pass up familiar and take road less traveled to San Luis Obispo wines
One of the more oft-quoted sayings of the English essayist Francis Bacon is "Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience."
Works with wine too. For instance, if you're going to fully experience California wine, it helps to travel away from the familiar in order to taste wines that, as Bacon might add, are "sequestered from the company" of the already known. That would mean getting out of Napa or Sonoma and turning the corkscrew into a bottle or two of wine from places such as San Luis Obispo.
In California's Central Coast area, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, lies San Luis Obispo, where wine grapes grow on average a mere 5 miles from the Pacific and its salvific, tempering, cooling breezes. Winemakers do well with cool-climate grapes here, pinot noir and chardonnay especially, but also with syrah; California's forte, zinfandel; a raft of Bordeaux varieties; and — incoming! — many of the European grapes we're currently trying our hand at, such as gruner veltliner, albarino, viognier and grenache blanc.
SLO, for short and, yes, pronounced "slow" is pinpoint perfect California wine country, no less blessed — some might say more so — than Napa or Sonoma with that felicitous grape-growing and winemaking amalgam of sunny, warm days; cool, crisp nights; diverse soil profiles; and talented, on-trend winemakers.
SLO sports two appellations that your taste buds would be wise to travel to, if only by the glass: Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley. Each is dotted with killer vineyards and wineries, some of which have been making delicious wine for years, and several at fine prices relative to those charged further north.
Here are some highly recommended wines from both appellations, whites first, then reds. Don't miss reading the sidebar on the chardonnays of Talley Vineyards, fine examples of ageable whites.
2012 Tangent Winery Albarino Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley: A dead ringer for a Spanish Rias Baixas albarino, all green apple and citrus and a slightly saline snap-to. $17
2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay "Fleur de Edna": Here's the butter, yellow peach and lees-y aromas and flavors — and heft — you buy from regions north for twice the charge; wonderful stand-alone chardonnay. $27
2010 Center of Effort Chardonnay Edna Valley: Burgundy's famed Domaine Des Comtes Lafon makes Macons like this, lined with citrus, mineral and verve but chin-dripping juicy with fruit. $30
2009 Kynsi Winery Syrah Edna Valley: Cool-climate syrah; red fruits with notes of blue fruit and furry, round-the-mouth tannin of the sort in walnut skin. $28
Arroyo Grande Valley
The issue with red Burgundy isn't its effulgent aroma, never-ending layers of flavors or impeccable transference of place into wine; it's paying for those.