Sunday, September 13, 2009

Santa Lucia highlights

Santa Lucia Highland in Monterey County is indeed a highly interesting appellation for wine. Almost 2 000 hectares of vines are planted, and Pinot Noir and Syrah are the stars. On the valley floor, salad and broccoli and other greens are dominant, but in the mountains above the valley floor, vines produce grapes and wines of the good to great quality. One of the leading growers and wine producers is Gary Pisoni, and his own wines from Pisoni Vineyards are often among the best in the appellation. Gary sells grapes to various winemakers all over the state, and as long as the winemakers are doing their job well, their wines will show the great terroir and quality of Santa Lucia Highlands. To me, the best wine producers of this valley are Pisoni Vineyards themselves, as well as Siduri and Peter Michael Winery. Others who frequently make great wines from here are Patz & Hall, Testarossa and Tantara. Their pinots are normally all worth seeking out for.
This was just another evening with a dear friend. Two wines were tasted.

2005 Syrah Gary’s Vineyard (Lucia Vineyards) / 89
Lucia Vineyards is the second label of Gary Pisoni, but this wine is not a second class wine. Grapes are sourced from neighbor, friend and business partner Gary Franscioni and their co-owned 20.25 hectare Gary’s Vineyard, mostly planted with Pinot Noir but also some Syrah. Winemaking is classic in small open top fermenters with punch down, then French oak barrel ageing. At first, this young wine is a bit closed, with only some dark fruit and a touch of spicy oak, but with air, the nose and palate opens up and displays layers of dark berries and plums, as well appealing notes of licorice and dried French herbs. Tannins are first quite firm, but during the time in the glass, they soften a bit. This is a fine example of cool climate Syrah, it is indeed very good, but not great. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.

2004 Le Moulin Rouge (Peter Michael Winery) / 91-92
At Peter Michael Winery in Knights Valley in Sonoma, pinot wines stands for less than five percent of their production, but 90 percent of the requests. Although they also are one of the true stars of chardonnays, their pinot program is very interesting. Now they produce three pinots, but Le Moulin Rouge is their first, and so far also their best. Grapes are sourced from a very good plot in Pisoni Vineyard. Normally this wine needs some air before it shows it true face. This vintage at this stage, was open and surprisingly silky almost directly from the bottle, although it opened up and showed higher aromatics with some extra air, displaying raspberries as well as dark cherries. Oak and tannins are present, but not as firm as expected (as they normally are), and the fine acidity lingers in the seductive aftertaste. Drink it over the next 4-5 years.

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