Having recently discovering the wines of Santa Lucia Highlands while touring the regions of Monterey County, I was able to further educate myself to the exceptional wines of this region at Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans trade tasting at Craft in Century City this month.
The Santa Lucia Highland is an area that is an ideal cool climate region to grow both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir due to the morning coastal fogs and afternoon winds. For the Chardonnay or Pinot Noir enthusiast this region definitely is high on the list for discovering some of the finest wines of these varietals.
The first wines that captured my interest were those of Paraiso. The 2010 Chardonnay was very floral and aromatic. This Chardonnay is aged for 10 months, 85% went through malolactic fermentation of which 20% is fermented in 20% new French oak and 80% one – three year old French oak barrels. The other 15% of the wine was fermented in stainless steel. This allows the wine to have just enough minerality and acidity. I found this Chardonnay a fantastic value at $18.
I also enjoyed Paraiso 2009 Pinot Noir “Faite”. This is a more masculine and bigger single clone Pinot Noir. The flavor of berries was very dominant in this Pinot.
My very favorite Pinot Noir of the entire tasting was Sequana 2010 Pinot Noir “SHL”. This is a light yet silky, smooth and very balanced Pinot Noir that is very drinkable. Sequana, which is named appropriately after the Franco-Roman goddess of the River Seine and guardian of France’s Burgundy Region, the area where Pinot Noir comes from is part of the Hess Family Estates.
I was extremely impressed with Pisoni/Lucia Vineyards. Pisoni a family owned winery making handcrafted wines is known for three distinct vineyards; Garys, Pisoni and Sobreranes. Many of the renowned wineries especially those in the Santa Lucia Highlands, buy grapes from Pisoni to produce Pinot Noirs from these designated vineyards. I found the Provencal style 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Lucia Vineyards, a very bright refreshing and vibrant Rosé that I highly recommend. The wine is named Lucy as it is the little sister behind Lucia. What makes this Rosé truly shine is from every bottle of Lucy sold, $1 is donated to breast cancer research. In fact if you think about the pink color of Rosé, the pink ribbon branding of the Lucy label, which represents breast cancer awareness, it is a perfect harmony for this wine and the cause it signifies.
The 2011 Chardonnay, Lucia “Soberanes Vineyard” was an elegant well-balanced Chardonnay with the perfect amount of acidity and minerality. The 2011 Pinot Noir, Lucia “Soberanes Vineyard” with its delicate balance hinting at cherries has lots of potential for aging. I see this wine growing and becoming even better with time.
Tondre Wines showcased two exceptional wines a 2010 Chardonnay and a 2010 Pinot Noir. It was the Chardonnay that caught my fancy. The wine is fruit forward and light with hints of tropical and stone fruit. The wine is aged, 15% in Hungarian oak that does not over power the Chardonnay and 85% stainless steel. Tondre is primarily a Pinot grape grower and this 2010 Chardonnay was the first release from the vineyard.
Bernardus Winery had quite a line up of Pinot Noirs. I was most intrigued with the smooth finish of the 2010 Pinot Noir, Pisoni Vineyard.
La Rochelle had just released the 2010 Pinot Noir, Soberanes Vineyard. The wine is spectacular as it’s a very floral Pinot Noir with subtle hints of clove and raspberry.
As I like a more full-bodied Pinot Noir, the Mooney Family 2010 Boekenoogen Vineyard was my favorite from this vintner, although their NV Pinot Noir, El Pistolero was a very nice for a light Pinot.
I have always been taken with Morgan’s Twelve Clones Pinot Noir. The 2011 vintage is no exception.
I see the Santa Lucia Highlands as the new up and coming region for some outstanding Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. If you have not discovered the wonderful wines that are produced in this mountainous area it is well worth the time to visit and enjoy the terraced beauty of the vineyards while sipping some fine wines.
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