The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 97 of 112

{ }  97 official Monterey AVA. South of SLH you'll find other sub-AVAs: Arroyo Seco, San Bernabe, San Lucas and Hames Valley. Three additional sub-AVAs lie outside the Salinas Valley: Carmel Valley, Chalone and San Antonio Valley. Some, such as tiny Carmel Valley, are notably warmer. Like many California wine regions influenced by marine cli- mates, the 6,100 acres of vinifera in SLH experience strong sun, especially at higher elevations (the table land's southeast align- ment lets the fruit takes full advantage of the heat) followed by afternoon cooling, accompanied by a stiff wind from the bay; fog often rolls down the valley. Coupled with a semi-arid climate, this reliable cycle ensures a long, steady growing season, allow- ing appropriate varietals to develop their full phenolic potential. SLH wines share certain qualities, including intense fruit character, fleshiness and bracing acidity with a strong mineral component. A Deep Understanding of Terroir At the industry tasting in Orange County, the more illustrious labels lived up to their reputation, for the most part, and there were a few pleasant surprises among the smaller winemakers. Bernardus offered three beautifully crafted 2011 vintage Chardonnays, all priced at $40 SRP: Rosella's Vineyard, remarkable for its silky mouth feel; Sierra Mar Vineyard, featuring more prominent fruit; and Soberanes Vineyard, the star of the line-up: focused and citrus-y, with hints of toast and caramel. (Soberanes Vineyard is the creation of two celebrated SLH growers, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni. Tiny Soberanes is tucked into a small triangular plot adjacent to their celebrated Garys' Vineyard, con- sidered by many to be the region's best.) Supply is limited—about 300 cases for each Chardonnay. Testarossa offered some distinctive wines. A complex, well- structured 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay (SRP $35) blends fruit primarily from Lone Oak and Fogstone vineyards; its amazing taste profile included butterscotch, caramel and even a touch of honeyed fig. A 2012 Garys' Vineyard Pinot Noir showed excellent fruit but seemed a bit rough-edged and unrealized for the $66 price tag and the fame of its source; perhaps it could have benefitted from some aeration. Belle Glos 2013 Pinot Noir "Las Alturas" ($44) is a classic example of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ; this dark ruby-colored beauty exudes raspberry on the nose and delivers a complex palate that includes plum, cherry, currant and a hint of anise. The finish is luxuriant, with just the right balance between fruit and tannins. Overall, SLH winemakers showed a deep understanding of their area's Region I climate and unique soil and weather characteristics. Most Chardonnays were oaked for nine to ten months, which seemed perfect; the Pinot Noirs captured the robust spirit of the terroir without betraying the characteristics of the varietal. And the prices? Well, $60 SRP seems like the new mid-point for quality Pinot, from Anderson Valley to the Santa Rita Hills. The recession is over—and so, perhaps, is Cabernet Sauvignon's reign at the top of California's ladder of red wine prestige. For more information, go to The famed Garys' Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. The Belle Glos 2013 "Las Alturas" Pinot Noir is a classic Santa Lucia Highlands expression of this varietal. Chardonnay is a star varietal in the Santa Lucia Highlands, as witnessed by the focused Bernardus version sourced from Soberanes Vineyard. PHOTO COURTESY OF SLH WINEGROWERS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2015