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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015

On the vine The San Benito Wine Trail One of the Monterey Bay’s best-kept secrets is there for the exploring By Camilla M. Mann trip. (See a complete listing under the ‘LOCAL FOOD GUIDES” tab at www.ediblemontereybay.com) Turning from Union onto Cienega Road, where most of the tasting rooms are situated, you enter a world of bucolic hills, hardy wildflowers and not much else. Especially—until now—there was not much in the way of food to match the fine local wines. But that will likely change soon, when exciting, seasonal, farmto table foods prepared by exceptional chefs are expected to be offered at both DeRose Vineyards and Bonny Doon’s Popelouchum. (See “Wine to Table,” p. 50.) When I first started exploring San Benito’s wines, I contacted Ian Brand, a vintner known for his Salinas-based Le P’tit Paysan label. One of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “40 Under 40: American Tastemakers” in 2013, Brand has broad experience with grapes from across our region through making wine for more than a dozen other Central Coast winery owners. We discussed Napa and Cabernets, Paso Robles and Syrahs, and Sonoma Pinot Noirs. When I observed that there didn’t seem to be a definitive varietal coming out of San Benito, Brand concurred. “San Benito is a younger region, so folks are planting a wide variety of grapes to see what works. The area is a county full of possibilities.” In essence, he says, the wines coming out of San Benito are a mixture of heritage and discovery. On the heritage side of things you have DeRose Vineyards, which occupies a site estab- Highway 156 is a road well traveled by people heading between the coast and the Central Valley, where Interstate 5 provides an artery the length of the state. For years, I’ve driven the road without looking beyond the patchwork of fields along the often-congested, yet picturesque two-lane road. But venturing off 156 onto Union Road just south of Hollister, I’ve made several recent detours onto the San Benito County Wine Trail, which is less of a straight path than a lattice crisscrossing the valley between the Gavilan and the Quien Sabe Ranges. The vineyards that dot the region include both some of California’s oldest and youngest grapevines, grown by some of its most intrepid vintners, such as Calera Wine’s Josh Jensen and Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, and a number of lesser known yet equally interesting personalities. What San Benito’s dozens of viticulturists and winemakers have in common is an attraction to the limestone-rich soils and moderating ocean breezes that make the area an extremely favorable one for growing wine grapes. But the similarities end there. Like the fault lines that interlace the area—the San Andreas Fault that flanks it to the west, the Quien Sabe Fault to the east, and the Sargent, Calaveras and Tres Pinos fault lines that it straddles—the group’s members like to shake things up. And because of that, they offer a diverse array of unique wines that make their tasting rooms well worth the Sights to see: from left, Al DeRose at DeRose Vineyards, signs pointing the way and Santa Pietra Winery. 48 edible monterey bay Summer 2015 Photos at left and center by Camilla M. Mann; photo at right by Deborah Luhrman


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015
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