Area Code 805: Exploring the Arroyo Grande Valley

Was it the original “Beverly Hills 90210” television program that first made us aware of how certain Zip Codes are more, for lack of a better word, privileged than others?

Zip Codes aren’t the only numbers that can tell a subtle story. So can area codes, especially as the areas they cover become ever more compact.

Take the 805 area code, for instance. To many wine lovers, 805 means one thing: Santa Barbara wine country.

But a closer examination of that three-digit code reveals a much more complex story. And in the world of wine, complexity is good, right?

It turns out there’s a lot more to 805 than Oprah’s Santa Barbara. Parts of the code’s area stretch well south of Santa Barbara (encompassing Ventura County) and well north as well (taking in San Luis Obispo County and the far southern sector of Monterey County).

Just before the turn of the millennium, 805’s expanse was even larger, including the inland areas of Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and San Joaquin Valley. (In 1999, they were switched over to 661.)

Of course, we’ve covered the Santa Barbara wine scene often, and will continue to do so in the future. And late last year, we took a detailed look at Ventura County’s emerging wine scene in this story.

So, for this wine 411 on the 805, let’s concentrate on one area of San Luis Obispo County: the Arroyo Grande Valley, a 16-mile-long appellation with an east-northeast orientation. That orientation is important because it allows breezes from the Pacific Ocean to moderate the temperatures and make quality winegrowing possible.

While some appellations specialize in just one or two varieties, the Arroyo Grande Valley accommodates several. In the cooler mid-valley, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have enjoyed the greatest success. In the higher elevations, near Lake Lopez, Rhone varietals share vineyard space with a pair of hearty reds, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.

One can get a good “picture” of the valley—not to mention a delicious one—in a single day by visiting Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery, Saucelito Canyon Vineyards, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery and Talley Vineyards.

  • Rancho Arroyo Grande is located at the head of Arroyo Grande Valley, just 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Its 3,400 acres of sloping hillsides, woodlands, pastures and vineyards are bordered by the mountain ranges of Los Padres National Forest.<

    The abundance of wildlife there—including bears, mountain lions, bobcats and wild boar—demonstrates the isolated and unspoiled nature of the place.

    The size and diversity of the estate provides multiple vineyard sites, differentiated by topography, soils and microclimates. The three estate vineyards, totaling more than 200 acres of vines, are planted on distinctive sites at elevations ranging from 400 to 1,000 feet. These vineyards experience day-to-night temperature variations of 30 to 40 degrees, ideal for growing balanced fruit.

  • Late in the 20th century, Bill Greenough painstakingly restored an abandoned old vineyard and began making what has become one of California’s most distinguished Zinfandels at Saucelito Canyon Vineyards.

    The story continues today as Greenough merges new methods in sustainable winegrowing with his family traditions and winemaking style, collectively called the “Saucelito Way.”

    In Greenough’s wines, the unique flavors are native to the historic dry-farmed vineyard in the remote chaparral of Saucelito Canyon.

  • The Laetitia Estate vineyards were first planted to grapes in 1982 when French viticulturists found ideal growing conditions in the Arroyo Grande Valley for producing wines of similar character to those of their homeland in Epernay, France.

    Nineteen years later, the property was acquired by Selim Zilkha, founder of a wind power development company and champion of environmental sustainability. Between his qualifications in renewable energy solutions and his passion for the pleasures of the harvest, Selim has developed Laetitia into the home of some of California’s highest quality, sustainably-produced wines.

  • The Talley family farming tradition began in 1948, when Oliver Talley started growing specialty vegetables in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Today, second- and third-generation family members maintain Talley Farms International’s reputation for premium fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, cilantro, zucchini, spinach, cabbage, lemons and avocados.

    Oliver’s son, Don Talley, watched the emergence of viticulture in the neighboring Edna Valley and Santa Barbara County areas with great interest. After extensive analysis in the late 1970s, he was convinced of the potential for growing high-quality winegrapes, particularly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, on the steep hillsides above the vegetable farmland that comprises Talley Farms.

    A small test plot was planted in 1982 and included five varietals. Working with viticultural experts from the University of California at Davis and the Napa Valley, the varietal and clonal selections were refined, and planting expanded over the years to a total of 190 acres in the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys.

The wineries of Arroyo Grande Valley are an easy drive from the town of San Luis Obispo, which offers a wide array of lodging accommodations. It’s a great base for exploring an “under the radar” wine corner of the 805 area code.

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
One comment on “Area Code 805: Exploring the Arroyo Grande Valley
  1. Vinesse Today says:

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