Tasting Wine: Digging in to the Central Coast white wines

The other day I tasted nothing but California wines. This may not seem like such a big deal, after all, I live and work in San Francisco. However for me it was a rarity. Usually, on my tasting days, I meet with several wine distributors and importers, and taste a wide variety of wines from different places. On Wednesday, though, all 20 wines were made from various parts of California.

The shrinking dollar has escalated the price of imports, European wines especially. While there are still a lot of wines from Europe that offer value, meaning quality that matches the price, American wines are becoming amore attractive proposition.

The Central Coast, a vast appellation that ranges from Santa Cruz all the way down to Santa Barbara County, is best known for its red wines but there are also some sensational white wines. The coast, as those of us who live in the Bay Area know, often gets afternoon and early evening fog, cooling off all things, including vineyards. This can be great for white wine production as it helps promote acidity, which gives white wine its structure and balances out natural sugar.

Here is a diverse group of some Central Coast white wines to check out. They are not only delicious but also priced so well that I might even say they are a bargain. Enjoy!

Ojai Sauvignon Blanc, McGinley Vineyard, 2007 (Santa Ynez, California): Six hundred cases were made of this pristine wine. Formerly called the Westerly Vineyard, this sunny locale has a major temperature drop at night, thus making it ideal for sauvignon blanc — California style. With brilliant acidity, this is an austere but fruity wine with citrus and floral notes. Suggested retail: $28

Clendenen Family Vineyards Tocai Friuliano, Borgo Buon Natalie, 2005 (Santa Maria Valley, California): Jim Clendenen makes legendary pinot noir and chardonnay in the Santa Maria Valley but for more than a decade he has been working with a variety of Italian grapes and making wines that range from interesting to “squisito” under this and the Il Podere dell’ Olivos labels. Only 100 cases of this Tocai Friuliano were made, so it might be hard to find. But it is worth the search. Suggested retail: $18

Talley Estate Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Valley, 2006 (Arroyo Grande Valley, California): The fruit comes from the Rincon and Rosemary vineyards, which also render single vineyard bottlings of chardonnay. It went through full malolactic fermentation and was aged in medium and heavily toasted oak barrels, yet it has marvelous integration and firm acid. Floral, with lemon meringue, toasted nuts and minerals, this is chardonnay that will please Burgundy and California chardonnay drinkers alike. Suggested retail: $26

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprieter of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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