While we love the wine country regions that are in our backyard, it’s fun to explore the areas that are a little further away. Take the Edna Valley on the Central California Coast for example. This lovely province has been producing wine for the past 40 years—almost as long as Napa—yet, it’s still a little visited valley with an old-school vibe. That all may change thanks to True Myth, the latest release from Niven Family Wine Estates. The Niven family, specifically the late Jack Niven was a wine pioneer in Edna: in 1973 he planted a 550-acre vineyard and began selling grapes to wine makers. In 1982, Niven helped the valley become a designated wine region and ensured that it reached American Viticultural Area status. Niven’s wife, Catharine, started making her own Chardonnay in the 1980s. Today the wine estate is run by two of Niven’s grandchildren, John H. Niven and Michael Blaney. The cousins oversee 1,100 acres of vineyards and run five different wine brands that produce more than 30 different wines. Their most recent venture that’s making waves in the wine business is True Myth.
“True Myth is an estate, single vineyard, and sustainable wine,” Niven told Haute Living on a trip to the family’s estate tasting room, just 10 minutes from the heart of San Luis Obispo. “We wanted to get back to our roots and make that classic Edna Valley style that helped put the region on the map back in the 1990’s.” The grapes for the Chardonnay come from the original plot, Paragon Vineyard, that Niven planted 43 years ago. The Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes grown in the warmer region of nearby Paso Robles. The charming French winemaker, Christian Roguenant, is behind the brand’s sensational varietals. Rogeunant says that the “fascinating, extraordinary diversity of soil types” results in an exceptional cool climate Chardonnay. “People forget about the difficulties of growing grapes in a cool climate. They don’t get that it’s different. We treat each block separately.” The resulting golden elixir has high acidity and low pH, which makes a varietal taste true to form. It’s a pure expression of what Mother Nature—the vines, soil, and climate—can offer.
Niven explains it like this: “These are wines that represent the special place they come from.” The best way to fully understand that special place is by taking a trip to the vineyard itself. The Niven Family Wine Estate tasting room is a quaint one-room pale-yellow building, that was an independent schoolhouse and dates back to 1909. It sits across the street from Paragon Vineyard and is surrounded by vines in various states of growth. You can’t help but notice the salt in the air—the ocean is just 15 miles away and this naturally affects the final product in the glass. If you happen to be visiting during the months of October to February, Rogeunant recommends stopping by the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Thousands of butterflies make their annual migration through the grove of Eucalyptus trees and this unique site was the inspiration for True Myth’s artistic and beautiful butterfly labels—a subtly sexy version of Mother Nature is depicted. When asked why he thinks True Myth is different, Niven takes a sip from the glass and pauses. “You will not find another wine that is presented as authentically and honestly as True Myth,” he said. “Every facet of these wines is soulful, artistic and intrinsically woven with the landscape.”