Published on 02-05-2022
New SLO Coast AVA
Standing on its Own

Over the past decades, much of the San Luis Obispo County Coast was simply “part of” the Central Coast AVA, which stretched from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
Although unique in its own way in terms of terroir, geography, weather, and especially the grape varieties that grow well, the coastal grape growing region of SLO County was without its own designation.

That changed as of April 8, 2022, with the official introduction of the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA, becoming California’s 143rd official AVA. California represents over half of all the AVAs in the United States.

Ben Schupack, geologist, explains the uniqueness of this new AVA: “The SLO Coast AVA sits on top of what is known to geologists as an accretionary wedge. These are ocean sediments which smashed into the west coast as the Farallon plate was being dragged under the North American plate over geologic time. Soils within the SLO Coast AVA are highly varied due to the complex history of the landscape.”

Welcome to the Family, SLO Coast AVA!

With more than 97% of the vineyards in this new AVA located within six miles of the Pacific Ocean, this is truly an area whose grapes and wines speak specifically to “place.”

It’s About Place

Over the last eight years, Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines was one of the leads to establish the SLO Coast area as its own AVA. Since 2011, Jackson, through his Aequorea label, has focused on single vineyard Pinot Noir, sourcing grapes from several premier vineyards in this unique coastal region.

Perhaps, summing up this new AVA best, is the description that Stolo Vineyards uses on their website, referencing their Hillside Reserve Vineyard: “Planted by world famous John Alban in 1998 Stolo Vineyards Hillside Reserve Vineyard expresses a sense of place unique to Northern Coastal San Luis Obispo County.”

There are over 50 wineries in the new SLO Coast AVA, some large, some small, where you can come to sip the unique expression of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other cool weather (not so commonly grown) varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Gruner Veltliner, to name a few.

Some of the many wineries in the SLO Coast AVA include:

Absolution Cellars:  “Specializing in limited production SLO Coast single clone Pinot Noir, Dirk Neumann likes to boast: “You could say my tasting room, overlooking the water in picturesque Morro Bay, is the most coastal one in the county.”

Bailyena/Tangent: The Niven Family first planted vines in 1973, and have been an area and community mainstay, contributing to the region’s history for fifty years. You can sip wines in the tasting room, an original 1909 K-12 Schoolhouse! Baileyana specializes in Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while their Tangent label features estate grown, unoaked whites, including Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Viognier. Experiencing these wines truly gives another dimension to the complexity and “specialness” of this SLO Coast AVA.

Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture Winery:  Cal Poly SLO certainly deserves major “kudos” for their part, with their world class in Enology and Viticulture degree programs. In addition, they have a working vineyard and winery where students learn the winemaking process literally from the ground up.

Chamisal Vineyards: The vineyard that started it all. In 1973 Chamisal planted what was the first vineyard in the area, in what would eventually become the Edna Valley AVA. “Chamisal Vineyards strives to produce wines hat express the wild and inspiring beauty of California’s Central Coast, and their 82-acres estate.”

Claiborne & Churchill, founded in 1983 is another family-owned winery. Inspired by the wines of Alsace, the climate and geology of this region was a perfect place for growing Alsatian varietals. Claiborne & Churchill’s initial crush produced 585 cases of Dry Riesling and Dry Gewürztraminer. Today, there are several other small lot varietals produced in this cooler climate region of the SLO Coast AVA.

Kynsi Winery, a “newcomer” was founded in 1995, by Don and Gwen Othman, well known in the local community. The origins for the name of Kynsi’s estate Stone Corral Vineyard is steeped deeply in California’s Central Coast history, dating back to Mission days of the late 1700s. The Othman family produces small lot wines, preserving the integrity of the history, and reflecting this special place.

Stephen Ross Cellars: You can taste Stephen Ross Dooley’s wines in their San Luis Obispo winery/tasting room. In addition to their estate SIP Certified Stone Corral Vineyard, focusing exclusively on Pinot Noir, Dooley also contracts with several premium vineyards, including the highly regarded Spanish Springs Vineyard. Dooley has been producing wine since 1994 – with a focus on making wines that reflect the specific micro-climates of the vineyards the grapes come from. He is also committed to sourcing grapes from only SIP Certified vineyards. Now, he can proudly list many of these wines as coming from the SLO Coast AVA.

Talley Vineyards: Talley has been a mainstay in the local area since 1948 when Talley Farms was started by Oliver Talley, who first planted avocados, lemons, and cabbages in the Arroyo Grande Valley. This was expanded in the early 1980’s when his son started to plant vineyards. Today, Talley Vineyards is run by Oliver’s grandson, specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their wines have been featured at the White House on many occasions, but the thing the Talley Family is most proud of, is their contribution and involvement in the local community for close to 75 years.

These are just a few of the many “new” SLO Coast AVA recognized wineries. So, get out your map, start planning day trips, weekends, and extended trips to explore this exciting new AVA. Many of these may already be old friends to you, but they are sporting a new and exciting classification, standing tall and proud, as the SLO Coast AVA.

For an overview of the SLO Coast, including its member wineries, go to slocoastwine.com.
Be sure to call or check in advance with any winery you are planning to visit regarding reservations and their schedule.


SLO Coast AVA map


Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle and culture, from the Central Coast up through the Napa Valley and Sonoma. He may be reached at: donsonderling@gmail.com.  IG:@dsonderling

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