Wine Talk

Snooth User: dmcker

From Santa Cruz south through Monterey--coastal mountains, that is

Posted by dmcker, Mar 28, 2015.

I once, a few years back, almost pulled the trigger on a real estate purchase in the hills back behind the Big Sur coastline. Was reminiscing on that today, and wondered why I never hear about wine from that area. Is it because I'm so far away and out of touch and there actually are barrels and barrels of wine being made there, or because the culture of the area is so rustic and counter-culture and remote and off-the-grid and non-commercial, or for some other reason entirely? Certainly to the east within Monterey there's good wine being made over in the Pinnacles, but that's across the Salinas valley. To the north good wine's been made in the Santa Cruz mountains for ages, or at least what passes for such in California. Further south there's lots of wine of varying quality being made down in Paso Robles. Why not up in those Big Sur mountains that are cooler and would seem to be at least the equivalent of The True in Sonoma if not even better?

Anybody have any answers?

 

 

1 2 next

Replies

0
1004
Reply by dvogler, Mar 28, 2015.

I think you ought to come back and buy that property!

I can't help you with your question.  I don't see why you couldn't grow grapes there, but I don't know why there aren't more.  Ridge had vineyards a bit north of there.  How much land is actually private there?

0
2403
Reply by GregT, Mar 28, 2015.

Don't know D, although it's a good question - how much of the land is private. I guess there are a few other explanations - there's wine made in the Monterey AVA and around it, but there's not a lot of really good wine made there. Also, can be a pretty cool region and where you're talking about is probably even cooler. Until recently people weren't so interested in those regions - remember everyone thought you had to grow Cab and Merlot and Monterey had a reputation for green and second rate Cab and Merlot. There's probably a water issue as well, and environmental restrictions.

But I think today people are a lot more willing to try things other than more Cab and if it's possible to do something there, I bet someone does before long.

75
2046
Reply by JonDerry, Mar 28, 2015.

Nice to have untapped resources like this remain...I've pondered planting vineyards in San Clemente as well, wondering what it would take.

20
3267
Reply by dmcker, Mar 28, 2015.

The photos are all from three separate plots of private land that I looked at.

Agreed, JD, and I hesitated before posting my query.

But wondered if anyone knew of any winemakers doing things there, interesting or not. Certainly there is wine down towards Cambria and Cayucos. If the Hearst family had held onto San Simeon, there'd likely be hundreds of acres of vines on their slopes by now. But up in those hills north of there where I first encountered all sorts of people into all forms of spirituality, went to a Zen retreat way back even before first coming to Japan (The Tassajara Bread Book is still one of the best cookbooks in my collection), danced in events that were supposed to be 'Yoni only', did the Esalen thing, visited areas where Amerindians supposedly clarified a number of power spots, and generally where there's been a lot of certified California craziness, as well as well-known celebs or eccentrics in retreat, why is there no wine? Or is there? Lots of that area is truly remote and difficult to get to, yet other areas are a quick strike to Carmel.

Around Occidental as well as further in and up there are all sorts of uniquely iconoclastic individuals. Now also lots of good wines. On the individuals front Big Sur has historically had Sonoma beat hands down. The environs certainly look able to support some very interesting vines under far superior circumstances to, say, Paso Robles. So, why not?

There is this event, of course, but the wine seems pretty much entirely from elsewhere...

152
1968
Reply by napagirl68, Mar 29, 2015.

Dmcker,

I think it is very difficult to develop any "private" land in Big sur due to the land trust and Ca Coastal commission.  While these agencies are providing protection from large developments and other entities that might harm the coastline, many believe they have gone waaayyy overboard.  As far as grapes go, you would have to pull out the native flora which is a no-no in that area.  Vineyards would also have other impacts- like water use or any pesticides (organic or not) that would be used.  Access is not great- Highway one is about it, and if we ever get rain again, it usually shuts down at least once during that rainy season due to mudslide.

Here's an older article (2004)- http://www.cpoabigsur.org/Archive/Big_Sur_Articles/In-Big_Sur_war_waged_over_land.html

0
1004
Reply by dvogler, Mar 29, 2015.

I found 20 acres for sale right off the highway, up the hill of course, for $850k.  Wow.  That's cheap.

 

152
1968
Reply by napagirl68, Mar 29, 2015.

DVogler,

It's prolly cheap since it would be difficult to build on it.  Also may be a water issue.  In Cambria, CA (just south of Big Sur), land is relatively cheap because you are not allowed to build without water, and the wait for water meter on a newly purchased piece of land was 20-30 years last I checked!  Which means there are a lot of vacant lots sitting there.....

I knew someone who had family land in Montecito, CA.  He also was unable to build on it...  had multiple lawyers trying to fight the coastal commies, but to no avail.  Not sure what ended up happening, but I suspect he donated the land as so many do when they cannot develop it.

0
2403
Reply by GregT, Mar 29, 2015.

Interesting. Given the current water situation in CA, it may not be such a bad idea not to develop any more water-intensive businesses.

0
1004
Reply by dvogler, Mar 29, 2015.

NG, you can call me Darren, or a-hole, whichever is more applicable at the time :)

I should have said I found on the internet, a real estate site that had listings for sale.  It makes sense then if you can't do anything with it that people would give up.

I thought America was the land of the free!  That sounds Totalitarian to me.  Is that a local, county or State thing that is preventing people from development?

20
3267
Reply by dmcker, Mar 29, 2015.

NG, was hoping to see you (and Fox) here in this discussion! 

Coastal Commission issues are something I was once au courant on since my family had a big chunk of land right on the ocean in Cayucos (I was also personally asked to make an offer on a ranch fronting the ocean in Cambria, though I quickly backpedaled when research dug up multiple not-so-obvious liens against it and judged the seller as being a bit, shall we say, questionable in his ethics). The Cayucos land was with partners, and majority vote was to develop. Things took forever to get through the Coastal Commission but finally cleared, and we were going to put in our own wells and even a reverse osmosis plant. Issues with the community (you should have heard the griping within our group about whether someone who was merely renting in Cayucos town should have the right to say anything at all) dragged on endlessly and dissension grew within our ranks so ultimately the consensus was to cut losses and sell. I was in Japan, so hearing things at a distance (and this was just before the Internet, thus slowly), but was disappointed because we were planning to build a large family compound right over a cove where I often had swum with the sea lions.

I'm thinking that there's likely good grape land not right over PCH but further inland. How far inland does the Coastal Commission's purview reach these days? I'm guessing biodynamic/organic farming, as dry as possible, might be sellable to the general community as far as formal and informal approvals of that sort might be necessary. And if a big enough chunk of land were purchased, I imagine there might be ways to lessen the need for such.

Regarding your comments to DV about the usability of that land plot, you are likely spot on. As you are about the PCH washouts, which I've personally encountered over a dozen times in past years. BTW, watermeter issues in Montecito and Santa Barbara as a whole are at a completely different level than up towards Big Sur where pop pressure is less and water availability generally greater. Plus 'water meter' is merely a symbolic name masking other intents in traditional Santa Barbara politics. One interesting exercise is to look at the population growth in Goleta and Ventura over the past half century and compare that to same in Santa Barbara/Montecito. Then look at their comparative 'water meter' policies. Still doubt much 'donating' was going on in Montecito since land there is so valuable, watermeter or no....

 

 

"I thought America was the land of the free!"  

DV, so you, too, buy what was written in old school textbooks?  Caveat emptor.  ;-(

My sister and I have often had lively discussions about planning permission subjects. She's been a city planner in San Mateo, San Rafael and Berkeley. You might ask NG what that potentially implies...

152
1968
Reply by napagirl68, Mar 29, 2015.

Interesting. Given the current water situation in CA, it may not be such a bad idea not to develop any more water-intensive businesses.

Greg, the central coast has had water issues as long as I can remember...  Even in spells of good rain.  They are always conserving.  I read it has to do with their location- their source is basically runoff from rivers and streams, and very few (and aging) reservoirs.

Is that a local, county or State thing that is preventing people from development?

Darren, I think State is the biggest entity here.  CA Coastal Commission is an State Regulatory agency, and they have lots of power.  State Parks also take that "donated" land at times, I have seen some cases of this in pasture areas inland a bit from the shoreline.  I'm sure there are local forces as well.
 

How far inland does the Coastal Commission's purview reach these days?

Dmcker, Good question.  I am not sure- I do remember them having some type of control over a large acreage of pastureland that had been in a family forever.  

I watched an excellent documentary talking about the issues of the Coast, as well as the power of Ca Coastal commission on PBS several years ago.  I just spent ~1hr trying to find it online.  I believe it is  one shown on KQED only, called "Coastal Clash".  I didn't find it on youtube, but if it is the one I think it is, it is an excellent piece. 

 

 
20
3267
Reply by dmcker, Mar 29, 2015.

The Coastal Commission has had large chunks of power since the '80s when their rise truly commenced. Don't remember hearing much in the '70s, though research might throw clearer light on their beginnings. Imagine there's been an ebb and flow in their influence and clout. For example, did they throw it around the same during the Schwarzenegger era as now, or from the late '80s into the '90s, etc.? Also would be interesting to know who are the effective lawyers in lobbying them, as well as people laying community groundwork for any plans. The people my family were involved with back then were an aging group who just got their hackles up, ending up saying to hell with it as their bloodpressure rose too high, and I thus saw them as an old guard not able to engage effectively with an evolving world. Would be interesting to look at successful development examples of varying sorts since then.

Turning it into a national park certainly seems like a nightmare, tantamount to neutering and caging a community that would quickly die. For what? Future jobs for rangers? Seems like a poor tradeoff. Gradual, ongoing ceding of over-regulated land to the Big Sur Land Trust also seems like a way to facilitate that transition. Gotta tip my cap, though, to the developer of that new example of bureaucratic-speak, 'viewshed'.  ;-(

I've talked to a number of lawfirms in The City who have been interested in taking on high-profile test cases in multiple areas. Seriously wonder if any of them would be interested in taking on The Coastal Commission (and Federal or other State initiatives) on the side of local residents. If any community deserves it, IMHO that one does.   ;-)

1239
173
Reply by EMark, Mar 30, 2015.

There are too many people.  Feel free to insert a "colorful metaphor"--in the words of Captain Kirk--between "too" and "many."

You can drive I-5 and 101 from the border at San Ysidro to the northern edge of Santa Barbara and the only time you escape urban development is Camp Pendleton between Oceanside and San Clemente and a few miles between Ventura and RIncon where there really is not much room between the mountans and the ocean to build anything other than the highway.  (OK, you have La Conchita, but, if it ever starts raining, we'll hear about another mudslide wiping out a section of that neighborhood again.)  The Oxnard Plain, arguably the most fertile and productive agricultural land in the United States, is giving way to housing and commercial developments every day.

It was not too long ago that there were only two landmarks  along Rte. 101 between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo:  Pea Soup Anderson's in Buelton and the Madonna Inn at the south end of SLO.  No more.  I'm happy to say that there are lots highway adjacent of vineyards around Santa Maria, but there are also plenty of Home Depots, Von's (oops, make that Albertson's or Haggen's) supermarkets, AM/PM Minimarts and tract homes. 

Yes, most of the Central Coast (from Santa Barbara to Monterey) has long been a bastion of "Slow Growth" and "No Growth."  Now, I know that their motives are mostly self-serving.  However, the older I get, the more I'm coming around to the opinion that there are nobler motives that also support that philosophy.

152
1968
Reply by napagirl68, Apr 1, 2015.

Yes, most of the Central Coast (from Santa Barbara to Monterey) has long been a bastion of "Slow Growth" and "No Growth."  Now, I know that their motives are mostly self-serving.  However, the older I get, the more I'm coming around to the opinion that there are nobler motives that also support that philosophy.

Mark, agreed for the most part.  I do NOT want to see most development on the central coast.  While I do believe it the rights of landowners, I do not want someone with acres of property in such a precious, pristine area selling it off for condos/hotels/whatever.  I am very nature-oriented, if anyone on here hasn't figured that out.  I participate with National wildlife fed, rescue rabbits, and try to grow many native plants to bring birds, bees, and other insects into my yard.  My latest fight, in this water-starved state, is against residential uncovered swimming pools which waste, on average, 1000 GALLONS A MONTH just due to evaporation!!!!   That is more than a non-conserving household uses in a month altogether.  In talking to a neighbor with an uncovered pool, which is used only a few times during the summer, he said "I never fill my pool in 10 years".  I said, well it must be on autofill (like almost all ingrounds are) or it would be empty by now, and he says yes, MAYBE.  So there you have it... the intelligence of the masses at work!   Uggh.

Back to the coast- again, I agree with restricting development that would really impact the area.  But there are examples where family-owned property was pressured into donation/sale to state because they would not allow them to put a simple paved road in to get to the house, no improvements on a old family farmhouse.  We are not talking about condos here, but, HELLO, my 100 yr old house is falling apart and the water washes out the road, why can't we renovate/improve it??? NO!  This was featured in that "Coastal Clash" documentary that I referred to.  They ended up selling out their great grandchildren to do a land trust to the State.  THAT is very wrong, IMO.  THAT is crossing the line, IMO.   I found the "Coastal Clash" dvd available on Amazon.  There was ONE copy available.  Interesting, as it was lauded as showing "both sides" of the issues, being extremely fair.  No wonder it is impossible to come by?  Better luck finding Jimmy Hoffa.

0
1004
Reply by dvogler, Apr 2, 2015.

Hey thanks NG.  I'm going to search that out.  Victoria is a haven for environmentalists and I'd be surprised if I couldn't find a copy of that.  EDUCATION would be extremely effective and the best place for all levels of government in California to start the conservation effort.  I'm willing to bet though, that changing so many mentalities will be very difficult.  The news articles I read today struck me like J Brown was telling the average person to "cut back" and it'll help out, but it didn't seem like they'd go after real wasters. 

1239
173
Reply by EMark, Apr 2, 2015.

NG, I agree that you and I are not terribly apart.

Darren, Governor Brown issued an executive order, yesterday, that communities must reduce water usage by 25%.  That is the high level. The details are a bit fuzzy to me.

The report that I read did mention some useful steps like replacing water guzzling flora with more drought tolerant examples, communities not overwatering boulevard median dividers (a sin here in Diamond Bar where we often see water draining off the Diamond Bar Blvd. median).  There is some talk of replacing grass on school athletic fields with artificial turf.  I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that.  If we can't have plastic bags at the supermarket, how can we have plastic grass?  Also, of course, we're talking about the intermural fields, not the revenue-producing, administration protecting, alumni worshiping inter-scholastic/collegiate stadia.

And there is a lot of finger pointing at golf courses.  I imagine that municipal courses will be forced to demonstrate how they are reducing, but I imagine that most private clubs will just carry on.

20
3577
Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 6, 2015.

Okay, getting back to the topic at hand, in effect the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is the other side of those mountains.  Arroyo Seco is basically due east of Big Sur.  And there's San Antonio Valley a little further south.  (Pierce Family, whom I have touted on the "Completely Different" thread, are down there.)  Here's a nice map: http://wine.appellationamerica.com/maps/Monterey_County.jpg SLH and Arroyo Seco are both on the west side of the Monterey Valley.  For a 3-D rendering, look here. (Don't click as the link doesn't work)

There's a little gulch between the top of the Big Sur side and the other side.  I love flying over it and imagining the story of Steinbeck's "Flight" taking place in similar hills or out by San Luis Reservoir.  It's pretty impassable territory, so it probably would take more than you can get out of it to make it work.  Sierra Mar is high up and as marginal as it gets.  I find the wines over the top.  But then I have strayed from Roar's style over the last few years.  Gary Franscioni thinks that SLH will be broken into North and South AVAs eventually, so there is some momentum to plant all along there.

An impediment is that much of that land is part of Los Padres National Forest.  If you got your hands on some land, you would also have to deal with getting grapes, people and equipment in and out.  As anyone who has been to Tassajara Zen Center knows, roads are few, far between, and not really well suited for trucks full of grapes.  To get to Tassajara from the coast would be a long enough trip, but the only other real option from 101 to that direction would be through Fort Hunter Liggett.  I've done that drive in a car and it takes quite a while--coming through in a truck sounds like a nightmare. 

And one should never forget that starting a winery or vineyard costs money.  Most of the rich folks who want a winery or vineyard want one they can show off, or to be part of their peer group.  Being a monk on a windswept hill struggling to ripen grapes isn't quite as appealing to some folks as being recognized at Meadowood by all the 100 point winemakers and winery owners.  ("Oh, look, there's Francis. And isn't that Melka?") So SLH is probably about as far as most newbies are going to go.  But it's going pretty fast as it is. 

 

 

20
3577
Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 6, 2015.

Oh, BTW, since you left the area, David, there is wine made on Hearst's Ranch: http://www.hearstranch.com/about/history/

 

41
1468
Reply by outthere, Apr 6, 2015.

"There is some talk of replacing grass on school athletic fields with artificial turf.  I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that.  If we can't have plastic bags at the supermarket, how can we have plastic grass?  Also, of course, we're talking about the intermural fields, not the revenue-producing, administration protecting, alumni worshiping inter-scholastic/collegiate stadia."

 

Difference between NoCal and SoCal is that up here we don't talk, we act. ;-)  Here in F'ville and in Sebastopol they are going to change out the fields to synthetic and use ground up corks for the cushion.

http://wn.ktvu.com/clip/11281200/sebastopol-high-school-opts-for-cork-field

20
3577
Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 6, 2015.

I said it a while ago to JD:  No golf courses that require artificial irrigation.  Period.  If you look at where the residential communities use the most water, it's those exurbs pushing into the desert and Palm Springs. Why?  Golf.  No one can eat it, only a few can play it... and we grow grass for it in the middle of the desert. 

Also, rice in the central valley.  Who thought of that?  Crazy. 

Now, back to the regularly scheduled thread. 

1 2 next



Continue to the end of the thread to reply
Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

259386 Snooth User: zufrieden
259386zufrieden
15 posts
1413489 Snooth User: dvogler
1413489dvogler
12 posts
472290 Snooth User: jackwerickson
472290jackwerickson
10 posts

Categories

View All




Snooth Media Network