When I say “Italian,” I am referring to California producers of Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese and Teroldego.
When I say “Central Coast,” I am referring to the large AVA stretching from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. You can see my Introduction to California’s Central Coast here.
There are thousands of Italian varietals to choose from, unlike the much planted noble grapes in California: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
Planting these less common varietals helps you stand out among the crowd, like Marcello Mastroianni at an American film festival.
They used to be called Cal-Itals. You don’t see the word spoken much more, perhaps because it sounds like a low-fat salad dressing, and everyone knows fat is in now.
I still love it–because it is catchy and easily recognizable for what it is.
I almost called this post “Who’s Doing Cal-Ital on the Central Coast?” but decided to stick with the times…they are just called Italian varietals now. And “Cal-Ital” recalls Jane Fonda wearing leg warmers and eating angel hair pasta with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
Italian varietals are grown all over the Central Coast, so it is impossible to point to one geographical location or terroir that defines it.
Since there are so many varietals, it is also hard to pin down a flavor profile. Therein lies the strength: trying these wines can be unpredictable, a new adventure, a refreshing break from yet another oaky Chardonnay. You might find something more earthy, more funky, less lush, or less heady than you are used to…you just don’t know until you pop the cork.
Below is a list of everyone that I know of with an Italian focus on the Central Coast. The list is not scientific–some people do it exclusively, while others have maybe a Sangiovese and a Nebbiolo in their eclectic, part-French, part-Italian, (and sometimes part-Spanish) collection.
Out of hundreds of wineries on the Central Coast, only a couple dozen are making Italian. Isn’t that something?
Stay tuned for my next post, where wine professionals weigh in on why.