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Monday, April 10, 2017

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 Simon

So 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 [7] 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!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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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