Monday, May 17, 2010

Edna Valley Wine Country


Like many coastal valleys in California, Edna Valley runs east-west in San Luis Obispo County between Islay Hill to the north and Lake Lopez to the south.  This situation allows the cooling ocean breeze to flow over the vineyards, where a blanket of morning fog is quite common.  This turns the valley and its clay-rich, mineral-laden soil into a fantastic cool-climate region that rivals California's best.

The wineries of Edna Valley are known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but they also produce some very nice Syrah and excellent whites that feature a bracing minerality.  In fact, just about any grape planted seems to do well here, and you'll find plenty of Rhone-styled wines alongside the varietals of Burgundy.

If you are planning a trip to Edna Valley, here are some stops you should include in your itinerary:

Chamisal Vineyards - Known as Domaine Alfred for years, the winery has re-adopted its original name from the early 1970s.  New Zealand native Fintan du Fresne is the winemaker, and he oversees the grapes with a careful hand.  A number of different Pinot Noir clones are planted, along with Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache.

Baileyana Winery - Established in the 1980s by Catharine and Jack Niven, Baileyana is now run by their sons John and Jim and grandsons Michael and John - now that's a family act.  The winery has always been known for innovative techniques and experimentation which has influenced other area producers. In addition to their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you'll also find some very interesting blends utilizing Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Don't miss their Sauvignon Blanc.

Tangent Winery - If you're a fan of white wines, but go with an ABC policy - Anything But Chardonnay - this is the place for you.  A full menu of "alternative whites" like Albarino, Viognier, Riesling and Pinot Blanc will please any white wine palate.  They share a tasting room with Baileyana.  While you're there, sample one of my personal favorite whites, Ecclestone, a blend of all their varietals.

Tolosa Winery - This place not only has Chardonnay to die for, but a spectacular view as well.  A beautiful tasting room - cork floor, overlooking the tanks - is only the beginning.  Try to get there when you can attend a special event in the Heritage Room.  You won't want to leave.

Claiborne and Churchill Vintners - Specializing in Alsatian varietals, C and C features Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris wines which are dry and delicious.

Chamisal Vineyards - 7525 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo

Baileyana/Tangent - 5828 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo

Tolosa Winery - 4910 Edna Road

Claiborne and Churchill Vintners - 2649 Carpenter Canyon Road, San Luis Obispo

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