Showing posts with label Santa Lucia Highlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa Lucia Highlands. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

(Slaps Head) I Could Have Had A Chardonnay!

Dan Morgan Lee has been around wine since the '70s, made his own since the '80s and grown grapes since the '90s.  His Double L Ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands is lauded for the quality of its fruit.  Sam Smith is the winemaker for Morgan Winery, and he carries out the minimalist vision that produces what they call wines of "balance, elegance and distinction."

2015 Metallico Un-Oaked Chardonnay

The grapes for the 2015 Metallico were taken from several cool Monterey County sites: the Roger Rose, Leavens, Double L, and Kristy’s estates.  It's unoaked, so they use the most fruit-forward vineyard blocks. The wine was whole cluster pressed, aged for five months in stainless steel, underwent no malolactic fermentation.  The alcohol sits at a very manageable 13.5% abv and it sells for $22.

This is a lovely, savory Chardonnay, the kind that makes me sorry I usually pass up the grape on restaurant lists and in the wine shop in favor of something a bit more exotic. This is plenty exotic.  Slightly golden in color, the nose brings an earthy salinity to the table.  A touch of lanolin masks the Meyer lemon and tropical fruit aromas.  The palate also shades the fruit with earthiness and lemon peels.  This wine has zippy acidity and is literally made to go with food.  I like it as much as some Chardonnays I've tried at twice the price.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo Blend

Morgan Winery is a Salinas outfit with vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.  The winery's location makes me think of Steinbeck, but the wine makes me think of the Rhône Valley with a splash of Spain.

Dan Morgan Lee was making wine from other people's grapes in the 1980s, and bought the winery's Double L Estate - for double luck, twin daughters - in the 1990s.  The ink wasn't even dry then on the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA papers.  The vineyard is certified organic by  Monterey County Certified Organic, and it's certified sustainable as well.

Winemaker Sam Smith used grapes from from  northern and central Monterey County to create the 2017 G 17 Syrah.  It's one of those only-in-America blends featuring two Rhône grape varieties and one from Spain, all grown in Monterey County, of course.  The mix is 87% Syrah, 9% Grenache and 4% Tempranillo.  G 17 was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, a quarter of which were new.  The grapes came primarily from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco Appellations of Monterey County.

Alcohol hits 14.4% abv, so it's hefty without being overpowering, and it retails for $22.  Just under 1200 cases were made,

The first whiffs of this medium dark ruby wine are pretty boozy, but they're loaded with black berries, tobacco, smoke, leather and spices.  The palate picks up black cherry and a ladle of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.  The wine drinks surprisingly gently, with enough tannic structure for roast or pork.  A medium finish is noteworthy and is missed when it fades away.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

No Foot Stomping For Lucy Rosé

If you are of a certain age, the phrase "Lucy wine" probably makes you think of a red-haired comedienne stomping grapes.  (Insert Lucy's sneer here.)  This Lucy wine is 100% Pinot Noir rosé from Monterey County's Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. It's a blend of grapes from different vineyard sites on the Pisoni estate. The 2014 vintage was dry - bone dry - but you have to expect that in the middle of a drought. The dry weather stressed the vines and made the grapes small and concentrated. The cool climate affords good acidity.

The wine is fermented in 10-year-old oak barrels, completely neutral. Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv, 627 cases were made and it retails for $18. From each bottle of Lucy sold, the Pisoni family donates a buck to the fight against breast cancer. They have raised over $80,000 for research so far.

This pink wine is really more salmon colored - it has a rich and beautiful appearance. The nose is gorgeous, too, with cherry and raspberry flavors wearing an herbal cloak. A bit of orange peel peeks through, too. Flavors of cherries and strawberries are big and ripe, and the acidity shows nicely. It's a great match with a bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Wine Artisans Of The Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA of Monterey County is a cool climate growing region, known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine grapes.  The folks who promote the appellation go as far as to say they are California’s “premier cool-climate winegrowing district,” although I’m sure the PR firms representing the Russian River Valley, the Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills would have something to say about that.

The cool climate comes courtesy of the geographical structure of the area.  The SLH AVA is located on the northeast side of the Santa Lucia Mountains.  The Salinas River Valley channels the cool air from Monterey Bay across the mountainside vineyards.  This gives the region a long, cool growing season, perfect for Pinot.

Artisans of some of the 50 vineyards of the SLH were in Los Angeles - Century City, to be precise - on Tuesday February 5, 2013.  They poured their wines at Craft, superstar chef Tom Colicchio’s Los Angeles creation.

The pioneers of the SLH - those who planted in the early 1970s - have been joined over the years by others in the region’s growth spurts during the ‘80s and ‘90s.  The AVA’s website says Rich and Claudia Smith (Paraiso,) the McFarland’s (Sleepy Hollow,) Phil Johnson (La Estancia) and Nicky Hahn (Smith & Hook) were the leaders who discovered that the conditions in this area were exceptional.

The vineyard acreage of the SLH is planted largely to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but smatterings of other grape varieties are around - Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and a few others fill out the vineyards.

I sampled at about a dozen of the tables here, and I found that the Pinot Noirs - with some exceptions - were more savory than fruity, and the Chardonnays were mostly rather oaky.  That wasn't always the case, and those that minimized the oak effect benefited from it.

Grape varieties other than Pinot and Chardonnay were few and far between, but they proved a lively minority.  Around the room, I kept hearing the homily, "When I want a Pinot, I look for SLH."  I have also heard variations on that theme about other Pinot areas in California and Oregon, but after tasting a few SLH Pinots, I'm sure these comments are quite heartfelt.  The quality of the Pinots poured here were uniformly high.

August West
Pinot Noir SLH 2011, $32 - This blend of Rosella's and Sierra Mar Vineyards bears a fragrant nose, and a light palate struck with raspberry and tea.  A favorite from Deadhead winemaker Ed Kurtzman.
Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard 2011, $45 - An extremely elegant single vineyard effort, one of many wines produced from Gary Franscioni's vineyard.

The Bernardus Pinots are marked by wonderful acidity.
Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard 2010, $65 - Savory raspberry fruit.
Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard 2010, $55 - The feminine exception at this table full of masculine wines.  Pretty violet nose.
Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard 2010, $55 - A delight, with funk on the nose and earth on the palate.
Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard 2010 - Savory and earthy, which is how they like 'em at Bernardus.

Hahn and Lucienne
These two labels use grapes taken mainly from the cool-climate north end of the AVA.
Hahn Estate Chardonnay 2011, $25 - From the Lone Oak Vineyard, slight oak on the nose and beautiful fruit.
Hahn Estate Pinot Noir SLH 2011, $35 - Beautiful fruit on this three-vineyard blend.
Lucienne Pinot Noir Lone Oak Vineyard 2010, $50 - Great fruit and acidity.

Hope and Grace
Pinot Noir Doctor's Vineyard 2010, $48 - Napa winery comes to SLH for a little savory edge to the fruit. Very nice.

J. Lohr Highlands Bench
Chardonnay SLH 2011, $25 - Eighteen months in oak for this one, but you'd never guess it.  The label's red winemaker, Steve Peck, explains that barrel fermentation on the lees makes for a milder oak effect than fermentation in tanks before oak aging.  One of the better California Chardonnays I've had.
Pinot Noir SLH 2011, $35 - This is a big Pinot with lots of fruit on the nose and palate.  Due for a March release.

Chardonnay North Highlands Cuvée, $30 - Clean and fresh tasting, with good use of oak and great acidity.
Pinot Noir Home Vineyard 2011, $35 - A lovely bouquet, floral and fruity.
Syrah Home Vineyard 2009, $26 - A hint of cocoa on the nose, a savory edge on the palate.

From one of the founding families of the SLH AVA.
Chardonnay Estate 2010, $18 - A bit oaky, but nice green apples and tropical fruit.
Pinot Noir Estate 2009, $25 - Fruity and light, with wonderful freshness.
Pinot Noir West Terrace 2009, $45 - More masculine than the Estate, with savory black tea notes.
Faite Pinot Noir 2009, $60 - A powerful, savory nose brought high fives to winemaker David Fleming.  Great acidity.

Chardonnay Sierra Mar Vineyard 2010, $42 - Big and oaky.
Viognier/Roussanne Les Tournesols 2010, $30 - Easy on the oak, with tropical flavors and great acidity.
Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard 2009, $48 - A great nose, tea notes and very nice acidity.
Syrah "Les Violettes" Paraiso Vineyard 2010, $36 - Light, fresh and aromatic, with 6% Viognier in the mix.

Puma Road
In addition to their SLH wines, they also poured a Gewürztraminer farmed just across the highway from the AVA and some Bordeaux blends grown in Hollister.  All were very nice.
Pinot Gris Silvio's Vineyard 2011, $25 - Two months in new oak is just right.  Apples, peaches, great acidity.
Chardonnay Silver Cap Vigna Monte Nero 2010, $24 - This one gets a short time in oak, then goes to stainless steel.  All fruit.
Chardonnay Reserve Vigna Monte Nero 2011, $50 - Six months in oak brings a lush texture.  One of the better Chardonnays here.
Pinot Noir SLH 2010, $35 - A big, big Pinot.

Winemaker James MacPhail creates single-vineyard Pinot for the Hess family of wines.
Pinot Noir SLH 2010, $32 - Elegant and a bit spicy.

Siduri and Novy
Novy Chardonnay Rosella's Vineyard 2011, $27 - The oak is played savory, not sweet.
Siduri Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyard 2011, $51 - Pretty, floral and feminine.
Siduri Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard 2011, $52 - Savory bouquet, with tea on the palate.
Novy Syrah SLH 2010, $24 - Nice and earthy.

Chardonnay SLH 2011, $34 - A combo of grapes from Lone Oak and Fogstone Vineyards.  Oak spice on tropical fruit.
Pinot Noir SLH 2011, $42 - A fruity middleweight with a floral, spicy nose.
Pinot Noir Fogstone Vineyard 2010, $59 - Fruit and flowers.

Chardonnay McIntyre Vineyard 2010, $45 - Minerals and oak.
Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield 2010, $49 - A savory angle to the floral notes.  Very interesting.
Pinot Noir Boekenoogen Vineyard 2010, $49 - Rich and full in the mouth.
Syrah Doctor's Vineyard 2010, $39 - Cool climate Syrah with a funky edge to the dark fruit.  Quite nice.

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Monday, September 26, 2011


Treana White

The Hope family has a 30-year track record growing grapes and making wine in Paso Robles, California, in the big Central Coast region.  They go a little farther north, though, for the grapes which make up theirTreana White.

The Rhone varieties which make up Treana White - 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier - come from Monterey County.  The Mer Soleil Vineyard is in the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands, close to Monterey Bay and the cool growing conditions which provide a great place for them to reach their peak.

Since it's a winery in a warmer, more southern area reaching northward for grapes, it's fitting that the blend pairs grapes that figure prominently in the northern Rhone Valley - Viognier - and the southern Rhone - Marsanne.

The grapes are whole-cluster pressed and fermented in French oak, except for a small portion that is fermented in a stainless steel tank.  The alcohol level is 14.5%.

Proprietor Charles L. Hope and winemaker Austin Hope are identified on the label by name and signature.  They can be proud to have their names displayed there.

The color is beautifully golden, with hints of copper showing at times.  After admiring the hue for some time, I put my nose in the glass and was struck by the incredibly aromatic nose of the wine.  The tropical fruit aroma tries to fight its way past the honey-laden dried apricot.  The honey aspect is almost mead-like in its intensity. 

The wine looks quite viscous in the glass, clinging to the side on the swirl while slowly receding after.  It feels viscous in my mouth, too.  An oily texture gives way to a shimmering acidity.  The flavors are complex, with first that dried apricot, then dried pineapple, then a slightly savory flavor fades into an acidity which intensifies on the finish.

I’ve had this wine a few times at tasting events - and was duly impressed.  Having an entire glass really underscores how much is missed by simply having a small taste.  The wine provides a new sensation with each sip.

It’s a big wine - big aromas, big flavors and big use of oak.  If you like a noticeable effect of wood in your wine, this won’t disappoint.  My palate tends to extremes.  When I want less oak, I want unoaked.  When I want oak, I want a tree.  This wine doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

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