On the Pinot Trail: Santa Lucia Highlands Tasting in Orange County
It has become popular over the past few years for California pinotcentric appellations to travel to major cities in
California and elsewhere in the United States to show off their wines. Members of the Santa Lucia Highlands
Wine Artisans paid a visit in February 2015 to the California cities of Costa Mesa and San Diego for Trade Tastings. Formed in 2005,
the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans is an association of vineyards and wineries that grow grapes in the
Santa Lucia Highlands or use the appellation’s fruit to craft their wines. There are currently 49 grower
vineyards, 20 grower member labels, and 24 associate member labels.
The Santa Lucia Highlands consists of a series of vineyards planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia
Mountain range that overlooks the Salinas River Valley. The fog and ocean breezes from nearby Monterey
Bay funnel southeast to create a cool, Region I climate. Long, gentle ripening is the rule, with the vines’
elevated sites bathing in the morning sunshine before the afternoon maritime winds slow down photosynthesis.
The region is known for early bud break, lack of fall rains, an exceptionally long growing season, and prolonged
harvests, allowing grapes to develop full phenolic ripeness.
The first commercial plantings arrived in 1971 and the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA was established in 1991.
There are about 6,150 acres of vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands, planted primarily to Pinot Noir (3,095
acres) and Chardonnay (2,060 acres). Conscientious viticultural standards are the rule, whether sustainable,
organic or biodynamic. Visit the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans website at
www.santaluciahighlands.com where there is a detailed map of vineyard locations within the AVA.
Here is a list of wines that impressed me. I had previously tasted wines from a number of producers present
(Bernardus, Hahn Family Wines, Loring Wine Co., McIntyre, Pisoni,) and their wines are not included here.
2013 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay $38 Bright citrus and pear on
the nose and palate with crisp acidity and a finishing lift.
2013 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $45 Typical feminine character
featuring an array of ripe red fruits and suede tannins.
2013 Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay $45 Released on day of tasting.
See review in this issue.
2013 Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $55 Invigorating aromas of fresh
black cherries and berries with a stunning spice accent. Very welcoming on the palate with a silky mouthfeel.
2012 Joyce Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $35 10% whole cluster, aged 13 months
in 25% new French oak. Mid weight dark red fruits with a note of spice on the nose and palate. Like this.
2011 La Rochelle Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $48 Plenty of meaty, spiced dark
red fruits with good drive on the finish.
MV La Rochelle Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $42 A savory offering with a noticeably persistent finish.
2012 Miner Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $75 Plenty of character and nuance in
this superb offering with a bit of whole cluster savoriness.
2012 Miner Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $60 A terrific, more feminine wine, with
plenty of spiced red fruit goodness and admirable balance.
2010 Miura Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $65 Full-flavored, mid weight dark red fruits
with suave tannins and nice balance.
2011 Miura Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $66 Released a few months ago. Striking
aromatic presence, impressive finesse and balance. The top wine of the tasting.
2013 Morgan Twelve Clones Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $34 65% Estate fruit. A blend of several
vineyards. Both fruity and savory, featuring an array of berry and spice flavors, and a finish with good drive and
2013 Morgan Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $58 Estate fruit, certified organic, 750
cases. A superb offering featuring layers of purple fruits framed by balanced, fine grain tannins and a luscious
2013 Lucia Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $60 A complete wine with luscious,
sweet fruit, folded-in tannins, and a generous finish.
2012 Puma Road Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $32 Plenty of sweet fruit and baking spices with
balanced tannins and easy drink ability. Good value.
2012 Puma Road Apex Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $35 Highest vineyard in SLH. Very
forward, dark red cherry core with pleasing spice accent. Great value.
2013 ROAR Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $52 Full-bodied, structured tannins,
richly fruited with oak in background. Very young.
2013 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $55 Feminine, solid, with great balance
and refreshing acidity on finish.
2013 Saxon Brown Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir $58 Feminine wine featuring red
fruits, spice and fine grain tannins.