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Saucelito Canyon
Terry Sullivan

Saucelito CanyonSummary: The Saucelito Canyon tasting room is an oasis amongst a sea of green in the beautiful Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo. Visitors can visit and taste a portfolio of wines where Zinfandel is king. Their vineyard has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines still producing grapes in the country.

The tasting room for Saucelito Canyon is located in the Edna Valley. We learned that the winery and vineyard are located 20 miles to the south in the middle of nowhere in the upper Arroyo Grande Valley AVA. The winery and vineyard do not have easy access for wine travelers and enthusiasts. It is not uncommon for cattle to block the path to the winery and vineyard location in a cell phone dead zone. The owners of the winery and vineyard, Bill and Nancy Greenough wanted to make arrival at the tasting room easy for people. So they bought a piece of property surrounded by vineyards in the Edna Valley and built the tasting room in 2006.

History and Vineyards

Saucelito CanyonReaching back to 1880, Zinfandel was planted in the upper area of the Arroyo Grande Valley, south of San Luis Obispo. This Zinfandel is on its original rootstock. At present, three acres of old vines are dry-farmed and have been tended to by owner Bill Greenough since 1974. Bill bought the property from the granddaughter of the original homesteader. Only two families have owned the property since vines were planted over a century ago. The vineyard began to decline during World War II when it became difficult to find workers.

Bill noticed the potential of the vines and and helped the vines recover from 30 years of neglect. The old vine Zinfandel is important to California. Cuttings from this vineyard were planted by UC Davis in its Heritage Zinfandel Vineyard.

Today the vineyards comprise nine acres of Zinfandel including the original three acres of dry-farmed, head pruned Zinfandel planted in 1880, and additional plantings of Zinfandel blocks in 1976, 1978 and 1981. The 1880 vines are the oldest commercial vineyard in San Luis Obispo County. The vineyard also includes a block of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The vines thrive in deep sandy soils with marine and alluvial deposits at an average of 800 feet in elevation. Sheep are used for weed management during the spring. Other sustainability practices include: composting and cover cropping.

Sorting takes place during harvest and a second sorting takes place at the winery. Tom Greenough, the winemaker, works in small lots for both fermenting and aging the wines.

The winery crafts 5,000 cases of wine mostly with Zinfandel grapes. However, the wine portfolio also includes some Bordeaux grape wines and some grapes are sourced from other vineyards. Saucelito Canyon’s first vintage was in 1982.

Saucelito CanyonWines

We started our tasting in the tasting room where photos on the walls tell the Saucelito Canyon history. Then we moved to a table outside and spent a lovely afternoon with Nancy while tasting several wines. The 2014 Grenache Blanc was a light yellow color. The wine offered lemon, peach and mineral hints. The crisp finish was fruity yielding to mineral.

Saucelito CanyonThe 2013 Zinfandel Estate was a translucent dark red color with a dark pink hue. The wine had red and black juicy berry fruit aroma and taste along with a fruity finish. There was a hint of leather on the aftertaste.

Two wines were Zinfandel blends. The 2013 Dos Ms Zin Blend was a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache and Petite Sirah. The translucent red colored wine was reminiscent of a fruit salad. Juicy red and black raspberries were noticed along with mild tannins and a medium body. The finish was very fruity. The 2013 Muchacho was a blend of Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah. The wine was a translucent ruby color that had hints of cherries, blueberries and blackberries. The wine had mild tannins and a medium to full body. The finish was fruity.

The 2013 Tempranillo was a dark ruby color. There were floral and plum notes on the aroma and taste. The wine had medium tannins and a full body. The finish was fruity and there were roses and chocolate on the aftertaste.

Visit Saucelito Canyon tasting room in a quiet, tranquil area. You may witness one of the larger aircrafts approaching the San Luis Obispo airport flying overhead. The outdoor seating is comfortable and one could spend hours enjoying the setting and wines.

Saucelito Canyon
3080 Biddle Ranch Road
San Luis Obispo, California

GPS: N35º 13.194’ W120º 36.090’


Article written April 2016


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