Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 2]
"Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." --- André SimonSo uh-yeah, you've been waiting for part two for sometime, I know, I know. But like your favorite new TV drama or sit-com, you have to wait, for what seems like an eternity for the next installment. So I hope the heightened anticipation, will be worth the price of admission. But if you happen to be new to this whole shebang, then you're in for a treat today. I have  seven new, fresh, and yes I'll say it, 'fabulous' Pinot Noir's sure to rock your wine-world. I know, this post is not all about the Sonoma, nor is it a collection of unobtainable unicorn wines; but if you just could pry your hand away from that 'cherished' Sonoma tasting room riedel for just a moment, you'll be glad you took the time to read about this amazing region, that's not Sonoma.
4. Sequana SLH 2010 PN: This wine sells for right around $32 retail, but some places have for just under $30. So be smart and shop around. This beauty comes from the fine folks at the Hess Collection, who've decided to dip their collective fingers into the Pinot-Pie as it were and boy I'm glad they have.
The nose grabs you right away, with a barnyard, wet earth funk. But as time goes by, each swirl unveils new, more inviting aromas. Baking spices, dark just-ripe fruit grabs your mid-palate, while sweet tobacco wraps around your tongue, laced with firm acidity to hold back the near berry-bramble collision. I was lucky enough to have scored a few [untested] bottles of this wine last year while visiting Hess, and I'm so glad my hunch paid off. My score 91 points.
5. Lucienne Estate SLH Single Vineyard 2010 PN: This wine is only available to be purchased in a 6-pack, but the silver lining is that each bottle retails for right about $35 each. I was told that very little of these 6 packs remained. So after seeing this, you better skedaddle over to the Hahn Estate site to score your own six-pack. This wine was barrel aged for 14 months in a combination of 35% new French oak barrels, which means unlike some wines I tasted, you get far more expression from the vineyard and far less barrel impression. A silky, rich mouth-watering new world PN in its purest form. The finish just sails on and on. My score 91 points.
6. 2010 Testarossa "Fogstone Vineyard" Sta. Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: This bottle is on the pricier side of the equation. At least it's in my book, selling in limit quantities for a hefty $56 each. Not an everyday-drinker for the average vino-sapien, but definitely a great bottle of wine to hold onto for a special occasion. This wine is a suave, thinking man's wine, which carries the ample fruit on a sea of well integrated tannins, with banners of fresh cola, earth, herbal notes and ripe strawberries. I scored this wine 93 points.
7. Los Gatos Cuvee 2010: I've been impressed with this producer over-all for a long time, but I've always thought their prices have swung toward the higher end of the scale. For me, as an nearly every-day wine drinker, those prices are an unsustainable blow to my wine budget. Part of the reason why I was glad to see they came out with a second value label.
A wine they have dubbed the Los Gatos Cuvee, produced from the Monterey AVA. Produced under a screw-cap indicating, it's made in a drink now and drink often style. It's still has some heft, easy drinking flavors and $23 SRP. I score this wine 88 Points.
8. Paraiso 2009 SLH Ranch Blend PN: Once more, this producer continues to amaze with the caliber of their wines, especially the Pinot Noir category. This is their entry level PN, it sells for less than $20 and I scored it 90 points. Baked cherry pie, white pepper, sweet tobacco, cola, nice length, well balanced. This wine is an easy every day drinker for the vino-sapiens who would like to dial up the quality, without emptying their bank accounts. Best Buy.
9. Bernardus 2010 SLH Rosella's Vineyard: A dark garnet color in the glass, a funky barnyard thingy on the nose, nice round yet enticing red fruited berries, cola, herbal, leaving you with a long, yet sumptuous finish. A wine produced from the famed “Pisoni Clone” and Dijon clone 777. This wine is listed as a single vineyard designate and carries a price commensurate with that designation, SRP $65. My score 93 points, sings par excellence.
10. Bernardus 2010 SLH Gary's Vineyard: Okay folks, this is the last wine in the top-ten list, but certainly not least, by any stretch of the imagination. A huge wine, full of swagger and braggadocio, but you would never know it; by the way it carries itself. It's like they say it's not bragging if you can back it up and this wine certainly brings it. This was one of the very first wines I tasted that day, but my-oh-my it was nearly best of show.
The nose grabs you right away, by the throat, and whispers in a Batman like voice, I'm Pinot Noir bitch, deal with it! Notes of vanilla, florals, toast, subtle spices, while dark plum and raspberry jam dominate the conversation. The palate is exceptionally full and complex, from the beginning to the last amazing drop. Having to spit really sucks sometimes, if you know what I mean. I scored this wine 95 points. It's a blockbuster, with a price to match SRP $65, ouch.
Perhaps you wondering about all the other wines, which I tasted and didn't make the top-ten list, feel free to shoot me an email and I will then send you a list of those who were left in the also-ran category. Until next folks, remember to sip long and prosper cheers!