D
o you know where the Central
Coast is? It’s not a bad litmus test
of contemporary wine knowl-
edge. Most wine buyers and sommeliers
quickly and correctly place it in Califor-
nia. This 250-mile-long coast-hugging
region produces wines that, generally
speaking, are a cut above wines which
use the generic California appellation.
As for consumers, though, it depends
on how avid they are about wine. At a
conference in Paso Robles in March, E.
& J. Gallo Senior Marketing Director
Michael Heintz cautioned that many
consumers in Boston think the Central
Coast is in North Carolina, while in
Florida they think it means Tampa. Some
people think Paso Robles is in Mexico.
On the other hand, a survey of the
Wine Opinions panel of high-frequency,
high-involvement wine drinkers showed
that 93% had heard of the Central Coast
and 84% had tried a Central Coast
wine—bigger numbers than for Wash-
ington State or Oregon.
Moreover, wine buyers—especially
those who have to find good value in
large production wines—are fans.
“My primary responsibility is to bring
value for the dollar,” says Bob Paulinsky
MW, director of wine, spirits and beer for
more than 700 Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo
stores. “I think it’s a plus for the consum-
er. I think it represents a step up from the
California appellation, but I don’t think
consumers know it. It may have value
with a very small slice of the wine-con-
suming public. For people who are really
into wine, it may be something they buy
when they’re drinking down, something
cheaper than Russian River.”
And Gallo’s competitor, Constel-
lation Brands, just made a major com-
mitment to the Central Coast. The
2-million-case brand Robert Mondavi
Private Selection has undergone a label
makeover, and most wines will now bear
a Central Coast appellation, including
the new Coastal Crush Red, a blend of
primarily Syrah, Merlot and Malbec.
It’s about getting back to the roots
of the brand, says Sally Campion, brand
manager for Robert Mondavi Private
Selection: “Mr. Mondavi started this
brand in 1994, calling it Robert Mondavi
Coastal. He knew that the Central Coast
could produce a lot of nice wines for a
fraction of the cost of Napa Valley.”
Monterey Bay
Region
CALIFORNIA:
Central Coast
San Luis
Obispo
Region
Santa Barbara
Region
Ventura
Region
WINE
WATCH
California’s Wine Central
With Geography and Experience on its Side, the Central Coast
Is on Top of its Game. But Do Enough Consumers Care?
BY W. BLAKE GRAY
Rick Boyer, winemaker for Robert
Mondavi Private Selection, uses the
Central Coast appellation on RMPS
wines, but the fruit comes mostly from
the acclaimed sub-regions of Paso
Robles and Sant Lucia Highlands.
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