Located at the foot of the Santa Lucia Highlands between the rural towns of Soledad and Greenfield, Arroyo Seco is known for its fog-laden mornings, sunny mid-days, chilly windblown afternoons. A mixture of sand, limestone, shale, gravel and roundedLocated at the foot of the Santa Lucia Highlands between the rural towns of Soledad and Greenfield, Arroyo Seco is known for its fog-laden mornings, sunny mid-days, chilly windblown afternoons. A mixture of sand, limestone, shale, gravel and rounded cobblestones, affectionately called “Greenfield potatoes” by the local folks, highlights ancient riverbed-based soils.
Spanish padres were the first to plant grapes throughout the region in the 1800s. But by the early part of last century, Monterey County was more known for its beautiful coastal towns, high elevation cattle ranches, and a vast agricultural landscape that produced sugar beets, lettuce, broccoli, and other row vegetables on the valley floor. That changed in the 1960s, when professors at the University of California-Davis forecasted that Salinas Valley was the new land of promise for winegrowing.
Over the following decades, the early pioneer brands to plant grapes included Mirassou, Wente Brothers (now called Wente Vineyards), J. Lohr, Jekel, Hahn Estate, Arroyo Seco Vineyards, Smith & Hook, Ventana Vineyards, Scheid Vineyards, and Monterey Pacific Vineyards.
After establishing a reputation as a source for high-quality fruit used by large-scale wineries to make tasty Central Coast, Monterey County or California blends; the latest trend has shifted towards working with more boutique producers who are making more delicious small-batch wines with the name of the Arroyo Seco AVA on the labels.
Grape Sensations: Arroyo Seco, California, USA
Whites: Chardonnay is the most dominant variety grown in Arroyo Seco. Over the past three decades, viticulturists in the region have put an emphasis on testing the newest clones and special selections available in the United States. Another popular white grape grown in the region is Sauvignon Blanc, which grows well in the warm climate and old riverbed soils. Other main white grapes are Pinot Gris and Riesling.
Reds: The main variety grown in the region is Pinot Noir. Some of the first cuttings of this grape were planted at Mission Ranch by the Mirassou family in the early 1960s. Today, it is common to find Dijon clones, Pommard, Wadenswil, Mariafeld, and special selections of Swan, Calera, and Pisoni planted in specialty vineyards of the AVA. Since the film Sideways debuted, the percentage of Merlot planted in the region has dropped, but the quality of the finished wines has increased. Other red varieties to look for include: Grenache, Syrah, and a smaller portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, made primarily with fruit from vines planted in the more protected area within the southwest corner of the appellation.
Tasty Sensations: Arroyo Seco, California, USA
White Wines: In general, Chardonnays from the region feature lovely aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, and minerals. Most are in the affordable price range, so there is more focus on fruit instead of heavy oak–which is great for people that like Chablis-style wines. Same is true with the Sauvignon Blancs, which feature distinctive varietal character highlighted by fragrant aromas, ripe fruity flavors, mineral, zippy acidity, and long refreshing finishes. While Pinot Gris and Rieslings are quite aromatic and feature sweeter core fruits.
Red Wines: While red and black-tone fruit dominates with Pinot Noir, there is still an extra touch of delicacy, floral aspects, earthiness and depth of flavor that you cannot find in other winegrowing regions. Merlots that still remain are more supple and easy drinking; while Grenache and Syrah-based wines are often fruit-driven with plenty of bright acidity.
Food Pairings: Arroyo Seco, California, USA
At affordable price points, white wines from Arroyo Seco are great to serve at larger gatherings. Think Mexican fiestas, Indian and Thai cuisine, and casual dining by the pool. The red wines are very food-friendly as well. Try Pinot Noirs with gourmet salads, fresh seafood, grilled vegetables, chicken an, pork. With flavorful Merlots, Grenaches or Syrahs, think fancy burgers, pasta, lamb skewers and barbecued meats.