In Monterey County, along the southeastern edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains, they grow some of the finest pinot noir in California.
The high quality was evident in a tasting sponsored by the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans, a group of dozens of growers and winemakers who were at Fort Mason on Monday to conduct a trade and media tasting.
Garys’ is Great
My favorite red wines came from Garys’ Vineyard, where premium pinot noir is grown by Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, two of the regions finest winemakers who planted their own vineyards together in 1997.
There are 18 wineries that buy fruit from the 34 acre patch of pinot vines. Garys’ Vineyard sits at 200-400 feet above sea level, smack dab in the middle of the appellation, where about 6,000 acres are under cultivation.
The Siduri 2008 Garys’ Vineyard ($54) was the biggest wine of the group, with bold tastes that need a bit of time to come together.When they do, look out. This is a blockbuster wine that’s likely to roll up some big scores.
Roar Wines is where Gary Franscioni makes his wine and his 2008 pinot from Garys’ ($50) will give Siduri a run for the money. This young wine is a classic California pinot noir — rich with dark red fruit flavor and a lovely nose that fills the glass.
For a slightly racier profile, try the 2008 Garys’ Vineyard ($50) from Pisoni, who brings out the high spice notes in this fruit forward wine that matched up well with a bite of baguette spread with Epoisses, a silky but strong-smelling French cheese from Burgundy.
Testarossa’s 2008 Garys’ Vineyard pinot noir ($59) was equally approachable, with a similar lovely nose that hinted of violets and a perfectly balanced structure that made each sip a little masterpiece.
I was also impressed by one organic wine from the area. The garnet-colored Morgan 2007 pinot noir from the Double L Vineyard ($48) tasted of dark cherries with a bit of cola on the nose. A cherry coke never tasted this delightful!
On the white wine side of the tasting, the two 2007 chardonnays from Mer Soleil were both winners. I liked the Silver “unoaked” version just fine for its smooth, crisp citrusy vibe, but the toasty oak and luxurious fruit in the 2007 San Lucia Highlands version ($36) made it a real head turner.
I first tasted the Pelerin white wine called “Les Tournesols” ($28) about a month ago. Upon re-tasting this 2008 blend of roussanne and viognier (the name in French means sunflowers), I remembered how much I enjoyed the taste and smell of this asian pear/vanilla elixir.
The bargain of the tasting was the Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay ($19) from Kali-Hart, a wine from Robert Talbott named after the founder’s daughter. I liked the streak of raciness in this golden glass of chardonnay that is centered by just the right touch of oak.
Highlands Fling Public Tasting
To get a taste of the new crop of wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands wineries, check out the Highlands Fling Gala Tasting May 15 at Hahn Estates in Soledad. There will be 30 wineries pouring their best wines alongside plates of local cuisine from some of the region’s best restaurants. Tickets are $85 in advance.
Tags: california pinot noir, California wine, chardonnay, fort mason, gary franscioni, gary pisoni, garys' vineyard, kali-hart, les tournesols, mer soleil, morgan, pelerin, pinot noir, roar wines, robert talbott, santa lucia highlands, testarossa, tim siduri, wine blog