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Details for Viano, Contra Costa County, Cabernet Sauvignon

CountryUnited States
Central Coast, California
(click to find out more)
AppellationCentral Coast AVA
Cabernet Sauvignon
(click to find out more)
Viano Vineyards
(click to find out more)

Central Coast, California

California’s Central Coast is a long sprawling region of about 250 miles running from San Francisco County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south.  Indeed it’s perhaps easier to describe what it doesn’t contain.  Napa Valley lies to its north, and it excludes the hot, dry, irrigated Central Valley further inland, source of most of California’s jug wine.
The Central Coast incorporates a number of different wine regions, many of which have their own AVAs.  At the northern end around San Franciso Bay lie Contra Costa, Alameda and San Franciso Counties.  Although historically important wine areas, blessed with an excellent Mediterranean-style climate and well-drained gravel soils, most of the vineyards have disappeared under urban sprawl.
Inland to the the southeast of the Bay the Livermore Valley has its own AVA, and until the Sixties was as important as Napa.  White varieties flourish here, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  South of the Bay, between Silicon Valley and the ocean, lies the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.  The coastal side, cooled by altitude, ocean breezes and fog, specialises in Pinot Noir, while the warmer eastern side produces elegant Cab, Zin, Merlot and Syrah.
Continuing south we come to the vineyards of Monterey and San Benito.  Monterey is a diverse area with some very large valley floor vineyards producing undistinguished wine.  However, it is cooled by sea breezes and in the right spots (e.g., Santa Lucia, Arroyo Seco, and Chalone) the cool temperatures allow for a long hang time and a late harvest, increasing flavour complexity.  Rainfall is low here, restricting yields.  Chardonnay and Merlot are the main varieties.
Further south still is Paso Robles, whose warmer climate favours red varieties.  It’s particularly famed for its big, juicy Zinfandels and latterly for red Rhône blends, though Cabernet Sauvignon is the most-planted variety.  Paso Robles marks the north end of San Luis Obispo County, again mostly planted to reds, but at its southern end is Edna Valley, where the character of the Central Coast takes another turn.  Here the influence is again from sea breezes and the fogs they carry, which give the region a welcome coolness.  Chardonnay dominates here.
Further south again, dryer but mostly even cooler, is Santa Barbara County.  Here the Santa Maria Valley can produce crisp and refreshing wines, thanks again to yet more fog which rolls into the low-lying vineyards.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are the staple varieties.
Further south in Santa Barbara, close enough to Los Angeles to allow tourists to visit for the day, is the hot Santa Ynez Valley where Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah dominate.  And then at the southern end of the Central Coast strip are the cool Sta. Rita Hills of “Sideways” fame (spelt that way to avoid confusion with the Chilean producer Santa Rita) which produce mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, though increasing amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer can be found.

Viano Vineyards

In 1920 the Viano family emigrated to California from Piemonte in northern Italy, and settled in Contra Costa County, on the opposite shore of San Francisco Bay from the city, because the rolling hills reminded them of home.  At the time, Contra Costa supplied much of the wine consumed in San Francisco.
They bought an established vineyard on Vine Hill, which overlooked the small town of Martinez and which had been planted in 1888.  Their timing was poor ‐ or perhaps they picked up the vineyard for a song ‐ because 1920 was the year Prohibition began.  Of the fifteen or so vineyards on Vine Hill, theirs was one of the few to survive the dry years, restarting wine production under the Viano name in 1946.
It’s the only one left today.  Vine Hill is now a desirable suburb of Martinez, and the other vineyards have long since been built over.  A million people now live in Contra Costa, and the same story has been repeated across the county; there are only half a dozen wineries left.
The 25 hectares of Viano hillside vineyards are now a little oasis amid the urban sprawl.  They look much the same as they always did: wide-spaced bush vines to withstand drought, since they have never been irrigated.  A few of the vines even date back to 1888.  The business is now in the hands of 3rd-generation brothers John and David Viano, with a helping hand from the 4th and 5th generations.
The vineyards are managed organically, without chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and all fermentations are done with natural yeasts.  They grow a broad range of varieties: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Columbard, Muscat Canelli, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Valdigue and Zinfandel, producing 14 different wines.  Their Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Zinfandel Port have been consistent medal winners.

about this wine About this wine

Contra Costa means opposite shore in Spanish, and the county lies just to the north and east of Oakland and Berkeley, on the opposite, inland side of the Bay to San Francisco itself.  Cooled by the maritime influence, its coastal hills were once important wine-growing areas but have now largely been built over.  Family-owned Viano Vineyards are almost the sole surviving winery.
The Viano family emigrated to California from Piemonte in northern Italy in 1920  They settled just outside the small town of Martinez in an area already known as Vine Hill, which had been planted thirty years earlier to slake the thirst of nearby San Francisco, and bought one of the fifteen or so vineyards there.  The others are now long gone, having sold their land to developers as the suburbs of Martinez expanded, leaving Viano’s 25 hectares of hillside vineyards as something of an urban oasis.
All their vineyards are unirrigated and they don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides.  This is their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, made entirely from head-pruned bush vines.  The grapes were hand-picked at the end of September and fermented with just the natural yeasts from the grapeskins.  The wine was then aged for eight months in older, second- and third-use American oak barrels.

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