Today, Winetraveler spoke with Tonya Pitts, Sommelier & Wine Director for One Market Restaurant in San Francisco, to get a sense of the trending wine regions and wine styles coming from the West Coast. We go beyond the more famous regions, to reveal some of the exquisite qualities coming from the up-and-coming wine regions.
What are some of the top trending wine regions on the West Coast currently? Why?
Top trending regions are Paso Robles, Santa Maria Valley and Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley. These areas are trending because of the various styles of wine being produced in these regions. The climates, soil types and variety of grapes grown in these regions are very diverse.
What style of wine stands out to you the most?
I like dry aromatic white wines. They could be still wines or sparkling. The wine has to be great on its own and it can be paired with all sorts of dishes. My occupational habit is imagining food pairings with every wine I happen to taste. I am constantly in pairing mode.
What region is producing your favorite white wine? What is it? What foods pair well with it?
I like the Chenin Blanc grape varietal grown in the Santa Ynez Valley. The weather is warm with cool to cold micro climates throughout the valley. It creates a wine with higher acid but the fruit is supple and the tannin’s silky. My perfect pairing is Crudo of Scallops with Parsley and Lemon Oil.
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Sparkling Wine coming from the West Coast of the US is still relatively unknown. What regions are producing your favorites? What are the production practices like and what grapes are being used?
There are some great sparklings coming out of Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and El Dorado. If the grapes are grown in a cooler climate with the right soil content, you can use almost any grape for a sparkling wine. Also, Pet Nat’s are super refreshing too, the wine maker can experiment with various varietals a little more with this process. Pet Nat short for Pétillant Naturel, which is an ancient way of making sparkling wine. The carbon dioxide is naturally created by the sugars in the grapes. It is bottled prior to fully reaching fermentation. My favorite grapes are Pet Nat-Riesling, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
What would be your ideal wine tasting itinerary for a weekend getaway in california and washington state? What regions, what specific wineries? Why?
My ideal wine tasting itinerary in California would be along the coast of Santa Barbara. I would stop into Ballard Canyon at Stolpman Vineyards, work my way down to Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills. I would taste with Chanin, Brewer Clifton, Tyler, Liquid Farm and Deovlet. These are all wine makers that are producing wines that speak to the region.
In Washington State, I love Walla Walla. I would spend time in downtown, there are tasting rooms in town. Dama Wines, Sinclair, Buty, Trust, Owen Roe, Gramercy and Sleight of Hand. There are almost too many to mention. Then, I would get in the car and drive to Seven Hills because the view is spectacular from the top.
I would finish the trip with the Columbia Gorge. There are some really exciting things happening in that region with so many micro climates. It is a warm region but there is a tremendous cooling effect in some areas. So, lots of experimenting is happening in the Gorge. One of my favorites is Analemma Wines, their sparkling is really pretty.
Then, I would head over to Oregon and see my friends in Willamette Valley – Antica Terra, Ponzi, Windelera, Roots, Ken Wright, Elk Cove, Brooks and Domaine Roy. These producers are all a study in soil types, regions and climate. They are all located in completely different parts of the valley.