Arroyo Seco – Monterey Regional Tasting Profile

Summertime in a Glass Resident Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis (a.k.a. grape goddess), gives us a nice overview of the Sauvignon Blanc found in the Arroyo Seco AVA located on California’s Central Coast in Monterey County. Here, some world-class Sauvignon Blanc is being produced in this unique, cool climate growing region. She explores several excellent wines and notes two distinct styles, but with a great deal of diversity found within those…

Arroyo Seco is located in the Central Coast area of California.

Arroyo Seco is located in the Central Coast area of California.

Monterey’s Arroyo Seco has long been revered for its pineapple flavored Chardonnays. It is warm enough here to get fruit fully ripe, and for whites that means from citrus all the way up to the tropical spectrum. This AVA, or American Viticultural Area, was formed in 1983, and is located between Soledad in the Salinas Valley and Greenfield. A narrow strip of the appellation runs from the end of Carmel Valley east, until it meets the wide, open, and windy Salinas Valley, where it forms a large triangle. Features of a seasonal creek, “Arroyo Seco,” formed the original boundaries of the appellation.

While Chardonnay is still the most widely planted grape here, Sauvignon Blanc is on the rise. This part of California’s Central Coast is sunny and warm, though cooling winds from Monterey Bay funneled through the wide Salinas Valley slows down ripening to a steadier pace. What this means is that wines give both rich, ripe fruit characteristics but they also are able to preserve their natural acidity – the wines are beautifully balanced and have staying power both at the table with food, and in the cellar.

I found two styles here, beautifully rich and ripe with tropical fruit notes, or the combination of tropical and grassy embodied by New Zealand producers and embraced by thirsty consumers around the globe. Both styles had a creaminess due in some part to the Musqué clone, which gives a rich mid-weight to the palate.

Vines in the spring in Arroyo Seco. Photo courtesy of Mercy Vineyards.

Vines in the spring in Arroyo Seco. Photo courtesy of Mercy Vineyards.

The 2012 Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc Therese Vineyard Griva Vineyard Arroyo Seco $28 is one of the ripest Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted in a long time. From a plot within the notable Griva Vineyard, it has notes of canned pineapple, fresh pineapple cubes, Roses Lime Juice, Kaffir lime, strawberry, guava, and quince. It is full and creamy with a white chocolate richness and a long flavorful finish. The 2012 Chesebro Sauvignon Blanc Cedar Lane Vineyard Arroyo Seco $18 from another notable vineyard also offers up lots of fresh, ripe pineapple along with guava, peach, chalk, lavender, and the tiniest hint of greeness, with a touch of crumbled sage leaves and soft, spring sweet pea. It is a full degree lower in alcohol than the Martin Ranch and therefore less intense and more refreshing.

Both the 2012 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc Monterey County $18 and the 2012 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc Griva Vineyard Arroyo Seco $24, both made with fruit from within this AVA, fell squarely into the New Zealand style that has enchanted the world, with the first offering soft ripe cantaloupe and honeydew melon, Midori liqueur, peach, guava, and starfruit, with a contrasting note of fresh thyme branch creating a tangy, sweet-tart contrast on the palate, and the second more overtly green, with notes of cucumber, jalapeno, asparagus, tarragon, and zucchini skin marrying with violet, rose petal, and nectarine. Taking a sip was like biting into a perfectly ripe watermelon – tingly, juicy, vibrantly flavored, and refreshing.

The 2011 Mercy Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco $16 shows the Musqué clone creaminess right away, and is so tangy it had me thinking of sweet and sour chicken. I loved the notes of starfruit, grilled pineapple, mango, butterscotch, and lively contrasting notes of dill, spearmint, and rhubarb. One of the nicest surprises of this flight of wines was the sexy, smoky, and spicy 2012 J. Lohr Sauvignon Blanc Flume Crossing Arroyo Seco $14. With notes of gooseberry, tarragon, asparagus, guava, kiwi, apple, pear, pink peppercorn and white pepper, a lively, zesty but understated palate, and a long, zesty finish, this is one to buy by the case.

Learn more about Arroyo Seco, discover great wine pairings with the region’s Sauvignon Blanc, and more here…

Visit –

Bernardus Winery

Chesebro Wines

Griva Vineyards

J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines

Mercy Vineyards

Also –

Visit the Arroyo Seco AVA

This project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

CF at Lookout Ridge~ Master Sommelier at Planet Grape® LLC – www.planetgrape.com, a wine consulting firm providing education, entertainment, content, and sommelier services, Catherine created her alter-ego, grape goddess®, to help bring wine down to earth for consumers as well as those entering the wine industry. She is the only person in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier and Advanced Certified Wine Professional credentials, is the world’s only Master Sabreuse, opening Champagne with a sword – www.saberingchampagne.com, and is a Wine Advisor to restaurants and wine bars. She is Contributing Editor/Columnist, The Tasting Panel Magazine & The SOMM Journal, Adjunct Instructor at San Francisco Wine School, Tasting Panel Lead at Swanky Wine Shop – www.swankywineshop.com, and resident Master Sommelier at Summertime in a Glass – www.summertimeinaglass.org.

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