Winemakers of SLO Wine Country on Terroir

The southern San Luis Obispo County wine region, commonly known as SLO Wine Country, is a sweet spot defined by its inimitable terroir. Here’s what its winemakers have to say.

Published: 6/17/2014

The southern San Luis Obispo County wine region, commonly known as SLO Wine Country, is a sweet spot defined by its inimitable terroir. Here’s what its winemakers have to say.

“The wineries are just five miles on average from the ocean, so the prevailing marine conditions are very pronounced, giving the fruit a lot of time to develop rich, full flavors while maintaining structure, complexity, and balance. I have a unique opportunity to work with grapes from two distinct terroirs within this region: Ancient Peaks’ Margarita Vineyard, at the northernmost border where it’s warmer, and Sinor-LaVallee’s Bassi Ranch Vineyard, just 1.2 miles from Avila Beach.” TRY 2011 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon; 2012 Sinor- LaVallee Pinot Noir San Luis Obispo


“The eight-mile long Edna Valley runs east/west, allowing the Los Osos Valley to channel cool Pacific breezes and frequent fog straight from Morro Bay into the valley. The mild climate permits extended hang time, allowing the fruit to develop intense concentration and to naturally fully ripen. These climatic conditions make this a perfect place to grow a plethora of whites. We grow a total of 10 varieties on our estate.” TRY 2012 Tangent Albariño; Zocker Grüner Veltliner


“It’s important to understand the cool climate of the Edna Valley, situated in a transverse valley running east to west, and therefore utilizing the cool maritime climate being brought in from the Pacific Ocean through Los Osos to the west and through Pismo Beach from the south. Beautiful spring and summer days offer plenty of sunshine for ripening grapes, while cooler coastal nights help retain bright acidity keeping the wines fresh.” TRY 2012 Chardonnay; 2012 Pinot Noir


“In many places, the soils are rich in beds of fossilized shells, marine shale, and ancient sand dunes left behind by the ocean when the land was uplifted. We have one of the longest wine growing seasons in the world, with very moderate temperatures which protect the natural acidity and ‘freshness’ of the wines. If the label says Edna Valley AVA, it is a product of the sea, and tied to this very small, distinct part of the winemaking world.” TRY 2011 Chardonnay, Center of Effort; 2010 Pinot Noir, Effort


“Edna Valley has the coolest climate of any AVA in California because it has the closest proximity to the ocean, which brings cooler conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. At Chamisal, we’re known for producing both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as small production lots of Pinot Gris, Grenache, and Syrah. Our historic estate vineyard was the first planted in Edna Valley in 1973. We still produce wines of distinctive character.” TRY 2013 Stainless Chardonnay; 2011 Estate Pinot Noir


“The varietal that put Edna Valley on the map in the 1980s was Chardonnay. They found that it grew really well in the valley and made fantastic wines. Today, with the renaissance of aromatic white wines, Riesling has found its home in the valley along with other white varietals. For reds, Pinot Noir and Syrah are the two that thrive in the valley. Pinot Noir loves the moderate climate and Syrah does well in select areas of the valley.” TRY 2013 Dry Riesling; 2011 Pinot Noir


“The wines of our coastal wine region have a distinct personality with natural balancing acidity and complex flavors. Our vineyard soils are mostly marine in origin with some volcanic influences, so at one time we could have had beachfront property here, dotted with active volcanoes. The resulting wines are complex with rich fruit, beautiful spice components, and extraordinary floral attributes. They have stature, but maintain a characteristic elegance and silky mouthfeel.” TRY 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé; 2010 Pinot Noir Estate Stone Corral Vineyard

Steve Martell SEXTANT WINES 

“South County SLO terroir is similar to that of Burgundy: cool nights and temperate days help maintain the grapes’ natural acidity while developing ripe, elegant flavors. We love our cool climate Edna Valley MacGregor Vineyard for our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These wines express unique mineralities with bright fruit characteristics. Harvesting at the proper time, sorting the berries for quality, and techniques of maceration, extraction, skin contact, are important, but the vineyards truly make the wine.” TRY 2012 Edna Valley Chardonnay; 2011 Windemere Pinot Noir


“Our climate is moderate with mild rainy winters and relatively cool summers with typical high summer temperatures reaching 74 degrees Fahrenheit. We also receive a lot of light during the growing season as the daytime skies are usually clear blue and the sun appears to be directly overhead as our latitude is low on the planet at 35 degrees North. Our wines can be very flavorful, with good acidity and moderate alcohol levels. TRY 2012 Edna Valley Chardonnay; 2012 Edna Valley Estate Pinot Noir


“Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive in the cool climate and marine sedimentary soils of this area. Both varieties express themselves best when they retain their acidity, which is often lacking in wines from warmer regions. Chardonnay is lemony and crisp. Pinot Noirs tend to be firm and complex. Our house style emphasizes balance and elegance. We vinify every section of our vineyards separately and see dramatic differences in flavor and aroma from one vineyard block to the next.” TRY 2012 Estate Chardonnay; 2012 Estate Pinot Noir

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2014 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.