The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 96 of 112

96 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 { appellations } IF YOU'VE EVER VISITED CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA OR Monterey, you've probably discovered that one of California's most picturesque stretches of coastline is also one of its coolest seaside spots, even in the height of summer. The nearby Santa Lucia Highlands benefits from that quirk of climate. Its 50 vineyards, lined up along the west bank of the Salinas River Valley, are fully exposed to the effects of Monterey Bay's chilly microclimate. Flowing southeast between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountain ranges, the marine air cools the val- ley for miles, making SLH (as it's known in the industry) one of California's outstanding cool-climate winegrowing districts. The charms of SLH's star varietals—including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which grow very successfully here, as well as some impressive cool-climate Syrahs—were well represented on February 26 during a trade tasting at Scott's Seafood in Costa Mesa, California. The nearly 30 growers and producers at the event included some of the area's most celebrated names: Belle Glos, Bernardus, Hahn Family Wines, Mer Soleil, Morgan, Pisoni, Roar, Testarossa and Wrath. History and Geography Spanish missionaries and settlers began populating the Salinas River Valley in the late 18th century, and the earliest vineyards in the area date from the 1790s, following the practices of the time and employing the hardy Mission grape. But historically, the Santa Lucia Highlands were not a major source of wine grapes. The modern winemaking era began here in the early '70s when Paraiso, Sleepy Hollow, La Estancia and Smith & Hook vineyards were established. Some ranching and farming families in the area became wine growers as well, and their names are well known in the business: Pisoni, Franscioni, Manzoni, Boekenoogen. In the 1980s and '90s, a few familiar winemakers from outside the area established a presence here, including the Wagner family at Mer Soleil and Robb Talbott at Sleepy Hollow. Total acreage in vines increased ninefold in 20 years. In 1991, a 12-mile-long strip of the rapidly developing region was designated an official American Viticultural Area. Santa Lucia Highlands is actually a sub-appellation. The Salinas Valley and surrounding regions are grouped together under the Highlands Fling THE SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS AVA COMES INTO ITS OWN by Paul Hodgins Soberanes Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands is a joint venture between Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni. PHOTO COURTESY OF SLH WINEGROWERS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2015