Stretching 250 miles south from the San Francisco Bay to Santa Barbara County is the Central Coast Wine Region, a coastal sprawl responsible for about 15% of California’s total wine production. In the northern parts of the Central Coast, Chardonnay tends to dominate the plantings, with Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also playing significant roles. The cool, maritime-influenced climate along with the fertile and gravely soil contribute to Chardonnay’s crisp acidity and citrus flavors, and the extended growing season yields concentrated Merlot and Cabernet. Some of the top northern Central Coast AVAs include, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey. South of Monterey, the Paso Robles AVA has garnered fame for its wines produced from Rhône varieties, Cabernet and Zinfandel. At the southern end of the Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (made famous as the backdrop for the movie Sideways) fosters a microclimate perfectly suited for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are the force behind the region’s wine production. Within Santa Barbara, the AVAs of Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills yield some of California’s most-excellent Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. For a full list of ratings and reviews of wines in the area, simply reference our Central Coast Wine Ratings.