Santa Lucia Highland Wines: Full-flavored and Intense

The Santa Lucia mountain range overlooks the Salinas River Valley.  Near enough to Monterey Bay to get its fog and ocean breezes, the vines enjoy morning sunshine and grapes have a long, gentle ripening.  The result is full flavored wines with intense flavors.  This AVA has a reputation for intensely flavored Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and other Burgundy varieties. Here are some of the highlights from a recent Santa Lucia Highlands tasting in San Francisco.  These wines, worth searching for,  are all available direct from the winery.

Jeff Pisoni poured
for Pisoni Estates
It’s almost impossible to talk about this region without mentioning the Pisoni family.  Grapes from their vineyards – Pisoni, Gary’s, Soberanes – are found in many fine wines.  The family makes some spectacular wines too.   Pisoni Estate’s 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir, “Lucy” Santa Lucia Highlands is pink, young and drinkable now.  It has flavor of strawberry, spice, sour cherry, and a touch of floral.  I enjoyed the citrus, peachy and melon flavors too.  14.1 percent alcohol.  $18 the 375 ml bottle.  One dollar from each bottle sold goes to breast cancer research.

A.J. Kemp, co-founder
Hawks View Cellars
Hawks View Cellars featured its 2011 Syrah, Cellar Series – Gary’s Vineyard.    Although the winery is located in Oregon, grapes for this premium syrah are picked at 6 a.m. in Santa Lucia Highlands’ famous Gary’s vineyard, and trucked to Oregon for crushing before dinnertime there.  Co-founder A. J. Kemp is proud of the product. The wine is a dense inky red in color, and aroma of crushed blueberries and raspberries predominates.  This Syrah is lush, intense, with soft fruit, fine tannins, a velvet texture in the mouth and a long finish.  Only 180 cases were made.   14.5 percent alcohol.  $45 the bottle.

Chris Weidemann, Proprietor
and Winemaker, Pelerin
Pelerin’s 2010 Viognier/Roussanne blend, “Les Tournesols”   (French for “Sunflowers”) has flavor of mango and asian pear, a hint of honey and a dash of licorice.  It is well balanced, rich, and from the Viognier portion (58 percent) there is a component of fresh cut white peach.  14.3 percent alcohol.  $30 the bottle.

Mike Pramuk, Wine
Educator, poured Mer Soleil
Mer Soleil’s 2006 “late” dessert Wine is primarily Viognier, and has the concentrated, nectar-like sweetness we love so much in a dessert wine.  Surprisingly, it is only 10.4 percent alcohol.  $30 the 375 ml bottle.

Rebecca Green Birdsall,
Proprietor, Black Kite
For Black Kite’s 2012 Chardonnay, “Soberanes Vineyard”, the winery obtained grapes from Soberanes, a Pisoni vineyard. My first aroma and flavor impression was of apricot, but there is also honeydew melon, apple and toasted marshmallow too.  It has a rich finish, nice acidity and a hint of minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol.  $45 the bottle.

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