Courtesy San Luis Obispo Coast Wine Collective
After more than eight years of planning and patiently waiting, proponents of the San Luis Obispo Coast appellation finally toasted success on March 9, when the federal government approved the roughly 60-mile-long, 15-mile-wide region as an American Viticultural Area (AVA).
Known as the SLO Coast, the area stretches from the San Luis Obispo County’s northern border near Big Sur to the southern boundary with Santa Barbara County. It includes all lands on the west of the Santa Lucia Mountains ridgeline, comprising 408,585 acres total. Though primarily focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the AVA is an increasingly popular site for aromatic varieties such as Albariño and Grüner Veltliner as well as ideal for cool-climate Rhône reds like Grenache and Syrah.
“We felt really untethered,” says Maria Stolo Benetti, who became an early SLO Coast proponent when she opened her family’s Stolo Vineyards in Cambria almost two decades ago. “There was nothing explaining who we are, and what we are doing, and how it was different than anywhere else.”
Bennetti sent her first email to other vintners in November 2013.
“There were so many other growers who felt the same way,” she says. “That made it really easy to get the ball rolling.”
They became the SLO Coast Wine Collective, which now has 32 members, and applied for the appellation in July 2017. The application was deemed “perfect” two months later, but approval was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and change in federal administrations.