As most wine connoisseurs are well aware, the Santa Lucia Highlands have been receiving a great deal of positive attention over the last ten years in spite of the fact that the region is a relatively small part of California's immense AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
The Santa Lucia Mountains separate the Salinas Valley from the Carmel Valley within sight of state Highway 101 and the Santa Lucia Highlands consist of a narrow strip of around 5,900 acres of vineyards and 34 growers. The vineyards are centered around the picturesque town of Soledad and the region was awarded AVA status in 1991. The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA area has received most of its recent attention for its Pinot Noir, which happens to be the area’s most dominant grape.
Exciting Pinot Noir Flavors
Many wineries outside of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA which focus on Pinot Noir have been buying grapes from this region in light of their excellent quality. In addition, many of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA vineyards have become well known to connoisseurs and have been producing wines which score extremely high with many major critics. A number of high-ranking wineries have grown up in the region, making it a source for some of the best Pinot Noir grapes as well as an intriguing and attractive wine tasting destination.
Californian Pinot Noir has a great price point when compared to the burgundies of the Côte de Beaune or Côte d'Or. Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Pinot Noir is known for its big, full-bodied fruitiness, with cherry and red fruit overtones. The majority of the Pinot Noir from the region is lively in the mouth, the main flavor being cherry, with mixed secondary flavors of chocolate and vanilla.
Some favorites from Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
2010 Lucia Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, at around $40 per bottle, sourced from Gary's Vineyard and Pisoni Vineyards fruit. It has a depth of cherry and black berry fruit, gripping tannins and secondary spice notes, in particular, cinnamon and cardamon.
Pisoni Vineyards’ 2010 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, at about $65 a bottle, is a darker, deeper ruby red with crushed black cherry overtones, with just a hint of fresh flowers and vanilla. This Pinot Noir tastes lively and would benefit from decanting, as it is a bit tight straight from the bottle, even after being chambered.
2010 Testarossa Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir at around $39 really hits its mark. Again, a deep ruby glassful with overtones of ripe cherry, herbal notes, and light spice for a balanced juicy finish underscored by cinnamon and leather.
Roar Gary's Vineyard is a small-lot specialist with a single Santa Lucia Highlands AVA vineyard and their 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir can be found at about $52 a bottle. Deep ruby red, a big black cherry nose, with berry undertones, this strong and supple wine has subtle flower and herb notes, even a touch of woody mushroom. Well worth seeking out.
Something special at any time of the year
Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir wines are amongst our favorites for their robust flavors, and their ability to surprise us with subtlety and wit. These are wines that you can select without hesitation to accompany rich, flavorsome foods such as beef and duck – they will more than stand their ground. We love them also for their understated class. In the summer we are often drawn to frivolous whites and frolicsome roses. How nice it is, in the evening, to pour out a glass of one of the many choices of Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir. To slowly savor the complexities of a truly rewarding glass of outstanding red wine.