Wild, Wild West: Central and Southern California

California’s Central Coast stretches from Ventura to San Simeon, but its three most important wine regions are Paso Robles, the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara County, where the film Sideways was shot. The success of that production fueled a surge of interest in the area’s wines, and the winemakers there have not looked back since. The Central Coast has only one oenological rule: Make world-class wines.

Brewer-Clifton 2008 Chardonnay Mount Carmel Santa Rita Hills

This unparalleled Chardonnay—a favorite from the Santa Rita Hills appellation, near Lompoc—exhibits so many complex qualities, yet its tropical-fruit aromas and deep flavors of grapefruit, lemon zest, and shale really stand out. ($56)

Clos Solène 2009 Essence de Roussane Paso Robles

This wine, which debuted in 2007, has already established owners Solène and Guillaume Fabre as consummate producers of the luscious varietal. Wonderful scents of honeysuckle and herbes de Provence blend with traces of granite on the nose, while flavors of white peach and nectarine regale the palate. ($70)

Happy Canyon 2006 Barrack “Ten-Goal”

Crafted from fruit grown on Santa Barbara County’s Piocho Ranch, this rich, multidimensional blend consists of 90 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Merlot, and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc introduces a fantastic suavity to the flavor profile, which displays a complex medley of mulberry, black cherry, bright spicy oak, and currant rarely found in Bordeaux varietals from the Central Coast. ($62)

Jonata 2007 La Flor de Jonata Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez

Matt Dees demonstrated his brilliance as a winemaker with Jonata’s inaugural 2004 vintage, and in 2007 he repeated this triumph. This precise and delicious Sauvignon Blanc offers deep aromas of lemon and orange blossom, acacia, and lemongrass. ($60)

Margerum 2007 Über Syrah Santa Barbara

Fruit from seven different vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley’s Los Olivos are blended to create this supple and spicy Rhône-style wine. Flavors of raspberry, pepper, and black olive lead to a long finish that attests to Doug Margerum’s unerring skill. ($50)

Moraga 2007 Bel Air Estate White Wine

This supremely structured Sauvignon Blanc is actually grown outside of the Central Coast region—in Bel-Air, in the hills of West Los Angeles, where the soil contains deep gravel and seashell beds not unlike those found in Bordeaux. Neither oak nor overripe fruit eclipses this white’s complex flavor profile, which combines delicate honeysuckle, lime, and white currant. ($65)

Paul Lato 2008 Sine Cera Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

A single-vineyard Pinot Noir, this regal red proves once again that the Santa Rita Hills appellation is one of the finest microclimates in which to cultivate the Burgundian grape varietals. Though incredibly rich, it achieves an elegant balance between its red-rose aroma and flavors of maraschino cherry and cranberry. ($70)

Tantara 2008 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard Santa Maria

Grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands’ famed Pisoni Vineyard, this fine Pinot Noir combines rich red and black plum, candied black cherry, and raspberry with a soft bouquet of rose petals and wildflowers. ($65)

Tyler Winery 2008 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

The Clos Pepe vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills is home to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with distinct Burgundian characteristics. Named for the stone wall (or clos) that surrounds it, the property produces half the yields allowed by regulations in Burgundy. The result is a flavorful red wine with notes of purple plum, wild game, tar, and anise. ($60)

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