Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 1]


"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

A sentiment I share and one which finds me in hearty agreement, but alas the world we live in today seems to be a bit more caught up in not only in the pursuit of gold, but also gain notoriety [aka, reality TV].  

Now that said, the tale I'm about to tell is simply about "cheer", indeed something we can all 'clink' our glasses together and rejoice. About what you may ask, well finding some superbly well made Pinot Noir, that you should be running out to purchase this very moment [what are you waiting for?].

As some you may know, I've been teasing this out over the last few days; that I would be coming to you with my top-ten SLH Pinot Noir report. So here it's, I just yesterday attended the Santa Lucia Highlands tasting, in Costa Mesa. There was something like fourteen different producers, not that I was keeping score. So I thought I may have a tough time coming up with a top-ten list, luckily that was not the case at all. 

When the average vino-sapien thinks of high-end Pinot Noir; the Santa Lucia Highlands is not the first thing that comes to mind right away. But I'm here to tell you that it should because there are some extraordinary wines being produced in this area, just south and east of Monterey, Big Sur is direct to the east and the vineyard sites look down into the Salinas Valley. You'll find many of the SLH wineries have a tasting room presence in the city of Monterey. 

As I had tweeted out earlier, some of you may find my top ten reports to have a few surprises in the line-up; as I don't always go in for only touting the usual suspects, nor do I want to only be a part of the hallelujah-PN-chorus. So with no further ado, here's the first part of my top picks from yesterday's tasting. 

1. 2009 Pessagno Central Avenue Vineyard PN, Monterey: The color was very unique, in direct comparison to the many others seen that day. A light colored burnt crumbled brick/strawberry. The nose was captivating, amazing florals, spice, strawberry/cherry. The first slurp, nice weight, structure and vivid acid carrying the fruit. At first slurp cola, near burnt-toast crusted with a strawberry jam. This wine sells for a mere SRP of $17.99, I scored it 92 Points. A best buy.

2. 2009 Pessagno SLH Pinot Noir: Another stunner, recently written up by WE, I could not believe what my mouth was experiencing. How could I've never heard of these folks before? Not sure, but I'm so glad I had a chance to get acquainted with their wines. We all know about yeasty-beasties and their role in the wine-making process. They use what has been described as a "Burgundian" yeast culture, known for producing bold flavors and aromas, right alongside natural yeast fermentation. Again the same color as above, a "sur lees" style that brings an invitation to flavor town. WOW, my score 92 points, the SRP is $28, what?

3. 2009 Four Boys Vineyard PN: This is their flagship bottle and my god it tastes like it, the fellas at WE oozed all over it with 94 points, I really could disagree too much. This wine was the best of the show, yesterday, a screaming fastball of flavor and finesse knocked cleanly out of the park. Folks this is SLH PN at its best. A PN rumored to be planted to the famous "La Tache" clone, as well as Dijon clones. The barrel-regimen is described as 75% new French Oak, over 11 months.

In the glass a burnt orange/strawberry color, nice barnyard funk in the nose, earthy, candied strawberry/plum and pie crust, nice acid carries the basket of summer fruit, lots of depth and polish. The SRP $55, and my score is 93 points.

I was hoping I would finish the entire list today, but I, unfortunately, will have to break this into a part-one and a part-two. That said look for part two tomorrow, as I have seven more fantastic SLH Pinot Noir wines you won't want to miss. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!
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