Twitter Takes on Central Coast Wine and its Great Girth

California-wine-mapAnother twitter-driven HASHTAG(Wine) day is upcoming. This one will focus not a varietal wine (a la #cabernet or #PinotNoir), but rather on a region. Specifically the Central Coast AVA in California.

The official hashtag for the day is #CCWineDay. The day set aside for this celebration of all things wine and Central Coast is Thursday, March 15th.

I'll make a point of drinking a "Central Coast" wine on March 15 and probably even using the #CCWineDay hashtag in order to join the on-line fun. But what I'll be looking for from the comments on Twitter that March 15th is discussion of the utility of having an official AVA such as the "Central Coast".

The description of Central Coast Day from the organizers is:

"The focus of this day is the wines that make the Central Coast so great! From Santa Barbara, Paso Robles & Monterey. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah and many others thrive in this region. We are hosting tastings and tweetups at many locations and across the country. Below are some of the wineries participating. All you need to participate is a bottle of wine from anywhere in the Central Coast and a twitter handle. Tell us your thoughts and follow along using the #CCWineDay hashtag."

The Central Coast American Viticultural Area is a strange thing that's hard to get your arms around and understand until you realize that when it was being promoted, Kendall Jackson winery was the primary promoter. Kendall Jackson, as well as other very large wineries, made very large production bottlings from grapes grown up and down California. The diversity of locations of vineyards that were used in the making of many of these wines that often carried the unregulated "Coastal" term on their label, meant the wineries had to use the "California" appellation on the label.

The "California" appellation is almost always a code word for "low cost" or "cheap". So you can see why CACoastmany people really wanted to have another official appellation to put on their bottles of low cost wines. Enter "Central Coast".

 The actual "Central Coast" appellation that was eventually approved by the then-abbreviated BATF encompasses nearly everything from San Francisco down to Santa Barbara spreading well inland beyond the coastal range mountains. It is a huge region of monumental girth that possess more soil types than can be named and a large number of different micro and macro climates. The elevations in the region range from 0 to well over a 1000 feet.

What's interesting is that last week I took Highway 1 from Monterey to San Luis Obispo on my way to World of Pinot Noir. In other words, I was driving along the true California Central Coast. You don't see any vineyards on this drive. It doesn't mean there were not any, it's just there are not many on the coast during this stretch of California. Lots of beautiful bridges, seals bathing in the sun and a miraculous coast line however.

In any case, when the Central Coast AVA was originally applied for, the distinguishing characteristic noted in the applications and arguments for this gigantic and nonsensical AVA was that the entire region within the roughly 14 million-acre proposed AVA is cooled by fog and ocean breezes…to one degree or another. Given the extraordinary size of the Central Coast AVA, the utility of this distinction is akin to noting that a particular area possess topsoil, and therefore it ought to be granted AVA status.

CalCoastsealToday, the actual words "Central Coast" on a bottle of wine has become code for "wines that are slightly more expensive than wines with the 'California' AVA on them." This is despite the fact that within the California Central Coast AVA there resides a large number of wineries making remarkable wines that carry the names of appellations that are much smaller in size than, but that reside within, the actual gargantuan Central Coast AVA.

So while I sure do understand the reason for promoting the Central Coast with its own Twitter Hashtag Day, I don't think that participants in this event can have any expectation of learning what a "Central Coast" AVA wine might offer in terms of reliably repeatable characteristics. They will learn, however, the names of the wineries that use this AVA on their bottles or that reside somewhere within the vast reaches of this officially recognized AVA.

This goes back to my long time position that with very few and notable exceptions, official California appellations on a bottle of wine usually don't translate into much useful information. This is due to the fact that for the most part, California AVAs tend to be lines drawn to satisfy political and marketing needs. It means that drinkers interested in identifying wines that are likely to possess specific qualities year to year are best to focus on learning more about individual vineyards. That's a lot more work.

Still, take note. Inside the California Central Coast AVA there are in fact a ton of great wineries. It's just that no more than a few of these wineries are putting "Central Coast" on their labels.


6 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - March 6, 2012

    By the looks of it, that’s not an AVA–that’s a wine country.
    Talk about giving consumers information…geez.

  2. CCWR - March 6, 2012

    Good to see this event.

  3. Spiritandwine - March 6, 2012

    Hi Tom,
    Great article. You bring up many great points. Central Coast is a huge region that encompasses many different growing areas. Different soils and generally much less precipitation than other areas of viticulture in California. I think the main focus of this, specific day is to allow the wines within the region to speak so that Central Coast isn’t so generic. From Santa Lucia Highlands, Paso Robles to Santa Barbara there are amazing Pinot Noir’s, Syrah’s & Chardonnay’s. I’ve found that for under $15 its hard to beat some of these incredible wines. I hope this spurs conversation and that folks would signup to participate for #CCWineDay. Still plenty of room for other C.C. Wineries to get involved. Register at
    Thanks again – Mark – Hahn Family Wines

  4. Kris M Beal - March 6, 2012

    Really nice piece! Even though I’m smack dab in this area, I sometimes lose sight of how others see this region or perceive the AVA. And on the farming side, it’s about as diverse as you can get, from Santa Cruz to Paso to Edna to Santa Ynez to Santa Rita Hills. I’m thinking that will be the interesting convo – and I’m looking forward to it!

  5. MitchBakich - March 7, 2012

    This is a step in the right direction for exposing consumers to the unique AVA’s within the gerrymandered behemoth that is the Central Coast AVA. Looking forward to it!

  6. Spirit and Wine | Blog | Central Coast Wine Day 2013 aka #CCWineDay - June 26, 2013

    […] Tom Wark described it best in his piece on Central Coast Wine Day 2012. See the article here: Twitter takes on Central Coast […]

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