Nice way to enjoy an outcrop

Wine Matches Well With Field Trip

Wine pairing can be a delicate and challenging task.

True, some choices are fairly obvious. A softer Chardonnay would pair well with a porous sandstone, for instance.

A complex conglomerate would require a full-bodied red for support.

And a mafic metamorphic rock might demand the robustness of a powerful, but not overpowering, Zinfandel.

Wine will mix with California geology in the field trip “Wine and Geology of the Central California Coast,” set in conjunction with the upcoming AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Long Beach, Calif.

The meeting features many outstanding field trip opportunities, from a look at the geology of the Santa Barbara Channel to heavy oil production in the San Joaquin Valley.

But none of the other field trips will include so much ... well, wine.

The outing leader is AAPG member Ed Magdaleno, a development geologist with DCOR LLC in Ventura, Calif. Participants in the pre-ACE trip will leave Long Beach early Saturday morning for a one-day excursion to the Central Coast area around San Luis Obispo.

“On our way up we’re going to stop by an outcrop of the Monterey Formation, which is a prolific source here,” Magdaleno said.

For the best outcrop viewing, he has arranged beach access through private property on parts of the trip.

The route progresses up Highway 101 via Carpinteria pier, through the Gaviota Pass and into the Santa Ynez Valley, with a first vineyard stop at the Firestone Vineyard.

After passing through more wine country, the route moves back to the coast for additional outcrop viewing. The group will have lunch at the Olde Port Inn on the Avila Beach Pier, which faces an outcrop of the Francsican Formation complex, according to Magdaleno.

For those unfamiliar with California geology, the trip will provide an introduction to the Franciscan Assemblage, a chaotic mixture of “greywacke sandstones, limestones, altered mafic volcanic rocks – greenstones – and pillow lava outcrops, deep sea radiolarian cherts, serpentinites, shales and high-pressure metamorphic rocks,” he said.

Two geologists familiar with central California join to provide background on the regional geology.

“The two gentlemen I found are both environmental geologists who work closely with all the wineries in the area,” he said.

Soil composition and soil formation are essential topics in areas where vineyards flourish, and soil will be an important topic on the trip, according to Magdaleno.

“The geologists will talk about the outcrops,” he said, “and geological relations to the soils.”

Another Good Reason

In the afternoon participants will visit the Edna Valley, a recognized American Viticultural Area with characteristic black humus and clay-rich soils, desirable climate conditions for growing grapes – and one of California’s longest growing seasons. Spanish missionaries planted the first grapes there in the early 1800s. The area is best known for its chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah.

Magdaleno said the geological commentary will include a discussion of the valley’s tectonic origins, its current appearance and formation of its soil.

The trip will end with a geology and enology tour through the Wolff Vineyard on Orcutt Road in San Luis Obispo, with explanations on modern, ecologically conscientious viticulture by noted vintner Jean-Pierre Wolff, Magdaleno said.

“The highlight of the day will be a wine-paired dinner served at Wolff Vineyard,” he noted.

Participants will then make the possibly sleepy return trip to Long Beach, with a scheduled arrival time around 11 p.m.

The California Geological Society is leading the field trip with a sponsorship from DCOR, Magdaleno said. The group that planned the outing left him holding the goblet as leader.

“I ended up backing into this,” he said. “I thought other people would be involved, and ended up being the last person standing.

“I’m also a wine connoisseur,” he added, “which helps.”

The explanation for combining enology with geology can be summed up in three words:

This is California.

Despite the emphasis on geological background and soil formation, Magdaleno suspects many of the registered participants have an ulterior motive for making the trip.

“I think most of the people who are going,” he said, “are interested in the wine tasting.”

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Wine Pairing Quiz

Match the wine varietal in the left-hand column with the appropriate rock type in the right-hand column. 

Wine Rocky Type
1. Cabernet Sauvignon A. Basalt
2. Chardonnay B. Granite
3. Malbec C. Quartz
4. Merlot D. Siltstone
5. Pinot Noir E. Breccia
6. Riesling F. Sandstone
7. Sauvignon Blanc G. Gneiss
8. Shiraz H. Slate
9. Zinfandel I. Limestone

Emphasis: Annual Convention