Big Taste of the Central Coast

wallywines.jpgIf you spent three days driving throughout the Central Coast wineries, from Santa Barbara to Los Pasos, you could not have sampled a fraction of the wines you could have in an hour at Wally’s 8th Annual Central Coast Food and Wine celebration. The event benefits the Michael Bonaccorsi UC Davis Scholarship Fund and the endowment at Allan Hancock College for students who want to pursue careers in Viticulture and Enology. There were over 55 wineries serving 150 unique wines you could sniff, swirl, taste and savor. It was like wandering from room to room in one of your favorite art museums only to discover another gallery filled with astonishing paintings you’ve never seen before.

In addition to such luminaries as Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Melville and The Hitching Post, to name a few, there were dozens of small hands-on wineries. Hard to find wines whose producers grow their own grapes, ferment them, and even drive to local wine stores to sell them. You could chat, query, and get a deeper appreciation of what goes into making unique wines in a market increasingly dominated by wine consultants and corporate ownership. Although the Central Coast is known for its distinctive Pinots and Chardonnays there was a healthy dose of Syrahs and Grenaches. These grapes are poised to make the same kind of impact in California that Cabernets did in the 90’s and Pinots in the 2000’s.

wallyschefs.jpgThe extraordinary abundant wine selection was complimented by signature dishes from many of the stellar restaurants in Southern California and the Central Coast. In addition to The Hungry Cat, Jar, Lucques, and The Hitching Post II – to name a handful who donated their time and superb dishes year after year – there were plenty of newcomers: David LeFevre’s Manhattan Beach Post, Micah Wexler’s Mezze, Josiah Citrin’s Melisse, The Oyster Gourmet, Windrose Farm, Bouchon Beverly Hills and Wilshire Restaurant.

But one of the greatest pleasures of the afternoon was to meet the ebullient Martha Stouman, who was the recipient at UC Davis of the scholarship in 2011. Martha found her passion for winemaking while working on a farm outside Siena, Italy. Martha’s thesis is a comparative study of wines made from Malbec produced in different countries using Sensory Science which explores the link between vineyard site, characteristic flavor and aroma profiles to determine what areas are best suited for growing Malbec in the United States. The information she and her colleague Fernando Buscema will gather, will provide a tool to develop new Malbec vineyards in the United States as well as inform growing and grape purchasing decision for those already in production. Martha is determined, after graduation, to open a small, organic winery that will caterer to wines in the $20 and under range and eschew wine consultants and the globalization of the world’s different wine regions. In short, Martha is the optimistic, determined future of wine making.


Craig Bolotin is a writer and director who lives in Los Angeles.