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San Francisco Wine School: Week 6 Monterey

Down the road, out the window.
Down the road, out the window.
Kenneth Fish

Since the Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the largest in California, it deserves a couple weeks worth of attention from the San Francisco Wine School California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) class I am currently taking. This is especially true considering the fact that me and the majority of my classmates admitted to not knowing a whole lot about this AVA. Sometimes, in learning as with tasting wine, it is best to take things slowly, taking the time to savor that which is presented.

One of the most interesting aspects of the past week’s instruction was about the Thermal Rainbow™ of the Monterey Wine Country. This trademarked moniker describes the widely ranging thermal variance that takes place throughout the region. From the north end to the south, there can be as much as a 40 degree temperature differential caused by cool air being drawn in from the ocean through the Gavilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges as the sun rises. The microclimates created within the Thermal Rainbow™ determine what varietals are planted and where. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir like it cool and do well in the north end of the region while Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, which thrive in warmer climates, grow strongly in the south.

Taking this into consideration, the two wines I tasted were a Wente 2012 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay and a Wild Horse 2012 Central Coast Pinot Noir (both $14.99). The pale gold Chardonnay featured sweet honey and prominent fruit up front followed by a hint of spice with a smooth, buttery finish. In my tasting notes, I wrote that this was a surprisingly good Chardonnay for the price. The Pinot Noir was a rich ruby color was a complex mix of bright red cherries and cranberries followed by a bit of smoke and earth and a light, oaky finish. This wine also got noted as being very good for the price. I think I will be paying more attention to this region for future wine purchases.

If you want to take this or any of the other classes on offer or if you’d like more information about the San Francisco Wine School, click here. Stay tuned for the rest of the CWAS adventures of yours truly.