Off the Beaten Track in California’s Wine Country

Did you know… beyond Napa and Sonoma, there are over 107 total AVAs in California alone. That’s a lot of wine country left waiting to be explored! Below are three amazing options you need to know about, all located in the Central Coast AVA near San Francisco and with something unique to offer visitors.

Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Recognized as an AVA in 1981, the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation was among the first to be defined by its mountain topography, following the fog line along the coast to encompass the highest vineyards on the ridge tops at 2600 ft of elevation. Their wines are representative of this stunning terroir, and more often than not, the wineries themselves have stunning views from this increased elevation.

With a history that goes back a hundred years, this is one of the most unique AVAs in the world and the only one in the US to include height in its boundary descriptions. The tasting rooms are also often in more remote locations, with beautiful winding forest roads leading to charming tasting rooms in the woods. Due to its more secluded nature, the tasting rooms tend to be less packed than in other California wine regions, and you’re more likely to run into the winemaker themselves with the opportunity to discuss their wines. They make world-class wine that easily stands up against the best Napa or French wines, but often for a fraction of the price.

Livermore Valley AVA

The Livermore Valley AVA is located within what is known as the San Francisco Bay AVA, a large area that encompasses much of the Bay Area. Their history played an important part in California’s wine development, with Ernest Wente planting the state’s first Chardonnay in 1912. In 1936, Wente bottled the first-ever varietally labeled California Chardonnay, and other growers quickly took notice. It is estimated that now over 80% of the Chardonnay in the state originated from his vineyard.

Located in the East Bay, the Livermore Valley AVA is shaped like a bowl, a sunken-in 500 feet of elevation, surrounded by higher hills that protect it from fog and Central Valley heat. They have a pretty steady temperature for this reason, with warm days and cool nights leading to easy grape growing. There are many amazing tasting rooms in this region ready to tout their historical significance, and it’s well worth a visit.

Santa Barbara County AVA

Located at the southern end of the sprawling Central Coast AVA, the topography of the Santa Barbara County AVA is noticeably different from the rest. Santa Barbara County jets out into the Pacific Ocean with lower hills, exposing more land to ocean winds. It is a viticulturally cool region with abundant sunshine, ideal for producing Burgundian-style wines. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate the production.

The Santa Barbara County AVA is charming and bucolic, with large, beautiful, sprawling vineyards. Due to the nature of the climate, the fruit has an unusually long “hang time” on the vine, allowing it to fully develop the acids, flavors, and tannins needed to produce wines of distinctive character. Their wines are well worth the trip, as well as the overall beauty and distinct history of the region.

After you’ve visited the outstanding producers in these regions, you’re going to need somewhere to keep your wine until you’re ready to drink it. Make sure to check out Certified Wine Cellars to design your perfect storage solution.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out the Wine with Paige website for “The Best Wine Tells Stories”

Enjoy Fall, and Happy Sipping!

Article credit: Paige Comrie