Elite California Pinot Noir Vineyards Part III: Central Coast - Santa Lucia Highlands
Owners: Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni (thus the name of the vineyard is Garys’)
Acres: 50 - 46 acres of Pinot Noir and 4 acres of Syrah
Year planted: 1997
Location: The site is in the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, 1.5 miles south of Rosella’s Vineyard and
7+ miles north of the Pisoni Vineyard in a slightly cooler area.
Aspect: Cool, maritime climate with morning fog and strong afternoon coastal winds
Pinot Noir scions: Primarily Pisoni scion supplemented with Calera and Mt. Eden clones, and clone 23.
Soil: Arroyo Seco sandy loam
Vines: 5’ x 8’ and 6’ x 8’ spacing on VSP bilateral trellising with 1,089 to 908 vines per acre
Farming: Managed by Gary Franscioni and Gary and Mark Pisoni. Yields are kept low by careful
hand-farming that includes shoot thinning, leaf removal, fruit dropping, and harvesting.
Winery clients: Lucia is the primary client (Lucia is a Pisoni family winery) along with ROAR (Gary
Franscioni’s label). Other clients have included Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery, A.P. Vin, Bernardus
Vineyards & Winery, CAlera Wine Co., Capiaux Cellars, Clarice, Copain, DAOU, Kosta Browne, La
Rochelle, Loring Wine Co., Martin Alfaro, Miner Family Vineyards, Morgan Winery, Miura, Siduri, Surh-
Luchtel, Tantara, Testarossa, Truckee River, Twomey, Vision Cellars, and Waltzing Bear Cellars.
Comments: This vineyard symbolizes generations of friendship between the Franscioni and Pisoni
families. The two Garys have know each other their entire lives.
2017 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 80 cases, $65. 100% destemmed,
aged 10 months in 57% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Hold on
to your hats when you pop the cork on this one! Engaging aromas of dark red berry and cherry and spice. The
dark red and purple berry fruits really grab your attention on entry, showing the extra class that is typical of this
vineyard. Very seductive, with a silken mouthfeel, masterful oak management, and plenty of juicy vitality. The
ridiculously long finish stands out among the 2017 Morgan Pinot Noirs sampled on this day. A joyous wine to
drink the following day as well from a previously opened bottle. It is wines like this that made me fall in love
with Pinot Noir in the first place. A. Reviewed July 20, 2019.
2017 Clarice Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $80, screw cap. This project
from winemaker Adam Lee is named after his teetotaling grandmother Clarice. 54% whole cluster fermented.
Aged in 66.6% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of dark cherry and
spice box. A tad richer and more structured than the Rosella’s bottling. Exquisitely composed with a wide range
of dark fruit flavors and a touch of spice. There is a good acidic vibe and the finish is amazingly long. When
tasted from a previously opened bottle after 4 days, the wine was still superb but will be even more rewarding
in a few years. Reviewed June 18, 2019.
2018 Clarice Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.08% alc., $85, screw cap. 76.2% whole
cluster fermented. Aged in 72.7% French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Deep, dark
and mysterious aromas of black fruits with an earthy tone. A little more concentrations and structure than the
Rosella’s and not as welcoming at this stage. Still, the flamboyant fruit has charm, the suede tannins add
textural seduction and the finish goes on and on and on.Still stellar when tasted from a previously opened
bottle five days after opening. Cellaring will be beneficial, but this will always be the baddest boy in the three
2018 Clarice Pinot Noir lineup. Reviewed June 18, 2019.
2018 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 98 cases, $65. 100% destemmed,
native yeast fermentation, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
penetrating aromas of dark cherry, pomegranate, sandalwood and savory spices. Mid weight plus in heft, with
highly flavorful black cherry, black raspberry and molasses flavors. Nicely balanced with integrated tannins and
an extended finish. The most powerfully flavored of the 2018 Morgan Pinot Noirs tasted. Reviewed October 4,
2019 Testarossa Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 600 cases, $76. Aged 16
months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nicely composed perfume with
scents of cherry, red grape, red rose petal and peppery herbs. Light to mid-weight in style with a glorious
charge of vivid, spicy black cherry fruit. Amazingly long in the mouth and on the generous finish. Very polished
with enviable harmony. At this stage, the palate far exceeds the nose in allure. Reviewed June 13, 2021.
2019 Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Reserved, but pleasant aromas of blackberry and spiced black cherry. Full-bodied in style with a plethora of
dark red, purple and black fruits. Excellent fruit purity, charming and seamless with a polished finish of some
length. A healthy backbone of tannin corrals the rich fruit.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/201/
Morgan Double L Vineyard
Owners: Daniel and Donna Morgan
Acres: 48.52 acres on a 65-acre property: 27.99 acres of Pinot Noir, 18.45 acres of Chardonnay, 1.06 acres
of Syrah and 1.02 acres of Riesling.
Years planted: 1997, 1998, and selective replants in 2014
Location: Northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA neighboring Sleepy Hollow, Rosella’s and Garys’
Aspect: Southeast-facing exposition with slopes from 150’ to 550’ elevations. The warm air in the southern
end of the Salinas Valley draws in cool breezes from Monterey Bay in the afternoons. Strong winds
keep temperatures down and thicken grape skins. Slow, gentle ripening lasts four to five weeks longer
than most other regions in California extending harvest into the fall.
Pinot Noir scions: Pommard 5, Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, and a “La Tache” suitcase selection
Soils: Arroyo Seco gravelly loam and Chualar clay loam
Vines: 5’ x 6’ spacing, bilateral cordon. Rootstocks are 101-14, 3309, Riparia Gloire, and SO4.
Farming: Sustainably farmed. Organically certified in 2001, becoming the first and only Monterey County
Certified Organic property in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Four times a year compost tea is applied
through the drip lines in the vineyard to provide micronutrients and microbes for the soil. A cover crop
protects against runoff and maximizes water saturation. Average yield is 3 tons per acre.
Winery clients: None, a monopole
Comments: The vineyard name, “Double L,” is in honor of the Morgan’s twin daughters and stands for
2017 Morgan Double L Vineyard Clone RC Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 100 cases, $65.
Cuttings from a famous vineyard in Burgundy were grafted onto a small block of vines at the top of the estate
Double L Vineyard. These organic grapes were 100% de-stemmed. Native yeast fermentation and aging for 11
months in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Bright aromas of cherry, spice and
sous-bois. Light to mid weight in concentration and elegant in style, with flavors of red cherry, raspberry and
cranberry with an accent of spice and botanical goodness. A dreamy, feminine wine with terrific balance and
oak management that aims to please out of the chute. Reviewed March 23, 2019.
2018 Morgan Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $. Crafted from organic
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose attracts with effusive aromas of black cherry,
blackberry, spice, and dark red rose petal. Unctuous purple and black berry flavors are delivered in a beautifully
balanced format. Everything is in proper place an d the long, haunting, purple berry driven finish is very special.
Still stellar when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle predicting a long life ahead.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/858/
Pisoni Estate Vineyard
Owners: Pisoni family whose patriarch is Gary Pisoni
Acres: 40.61 acres - 34.27 acres of Pinot Noir, 4.54 acres of Chardonnay and 1.80 acres of Syrah
Old Block: 1982 and 2011, original planting of 5 acres of own-rooted Pisoni scion; 2 acres of newer
plantings on 5C rootstock using budwood from original vines.
Big Block: 1991, 16.80 acres of Pisoni scion
Tina Block: 1995, 1.20 acres of Pisoni scion
Piedras Block: 1995, 2.50 acres of Pisoni scion
Hermanos Block: 1995, 5.00 acres of Pisoni scion
Elias Block: 1995 and 2015, 5.00 acres of Pisoni scion
New Block: 1996, 1.66 acres of Pisoni scion
Lion Block (Susan’s Hill): 2006, 1.80 acres of Pisoni scion
Mommy Block: 2022, 3.50 acres of Pisoni scion
Mario Block: 1999 2.88 acres of own-rooted Old Wente Chardonnay
Lino Block: 2001, 1.80 acres of Syrah
New Block: 2011, 1.66 acres of suitcase and Old Wente own-rooted Chardonnay
Location: Northeastern corner of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA (a Gonzales mailing address)
Aspect: Rugged mountainous contours at 1,300 feet elevation overlooking the Salinas Valley to the east.
Southeast exposure to the regular sun. Significant cooling maritime influence including fog. One of the
highest elevation vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.
Pinot Noir scions: Rumored to be suitcase cuttings from a famous Domaine in Vosne-Romanée (? La Tache)
and now referred to as the Pisoni selection or ‘clone.’
Soil: Well-draining, decomposed granite with high amounts of schist and quartz as well as sandy loam and
gravelly loam. The soils are really poor.
Vines: Orientation is true north. Trellising is unilateral cordon, VSP. Old Block: 5’ x 12’ spacing, 5C rootstock
(newer plantings); Big Block: 5’ x 10’ spacing, SO4 rootstock; Tina Block: 5’ x 10’ spacing, 1103P
rootstock; Piedras Block: 5’ x 8’ spacing, own-rooted; Hermanos Block: 5’ x 8’ spacing SO4 rootstock;
Elias Block: 5’ x 8’ spacing on SO4 rootstock; New Block: 4’ x 7’ spacing on various rootstocks;
Lino Block: 4’ x 7’ spacing on 1103P rootstock; Mommy Block to be planted in 2022.
Farming: Certified sustainably farmed by Gary’s son, Mark Pisoni. Vineyard management is meticulous, even
fanatical. typically, farming goes far beyond the baseline requirements for sustainability and many
organic practices are in place. Irrigation is necessary as annual rainfall is about 8-12 inches that is
much less than regions that do not irrigate. Irrigation rates are adjusted by various inputs such as soil
actions (cover crop, spading, etc), weather and vine data, soil moisture probes, and visual signs from
the vines. A year-round and long-term team of employees care for each and every vine by hand.
Winery clients: A single wine is offered by the Pisoni family from Pisoni Estate: Pisoni Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir clients have included Peter Michael (labeled as ‘Le Moulin Rouge’), Paul Lato, Testarossa,
Kosta Browne, Tantara, Arcadian, Bernardus, Miura, Patz 7 Hall, Capiaux Cellars, and ROAR. Some
Pinot Noir grapes are blended with Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards fruit in the Lucia Santa Lucia
Highlands bottling produced by the Pisoni family. A Pisoni Pisoni Estate Chardonnay is produced from
vines that include the initial plantings dating to 1982 and 1999. The winemaker for the Pisoni Estate
wines is Gary’s son Mark Pisoni. The inaugural Estate Pinot Noir was released in 1998 and Estate
Chardonnay in 2010. I believe Paul Lato is the sole independent recipient of Pisoni Chardonnay grapes.
Comments: Mark Pisoni Talks Santa Lucia Highlands Wine: www.thewinewrite.com.
2011 ROAR Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 780 cases, $80. 24% whole
cluster. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 61% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
garnet color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with scents of blackberry, cola, tilled earth and old leather satchel.
Very silky on the palate, with mid-weight flavors of cassis, blackberry and a savory earthiness. This wine has
staying power, still holding its own and probably good for at least another 5+ years.
2014 Pisoni Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $80.
Dark garnet color in the
glass. Leading off are aromas of blackberry reduction, cigar box and old cask. Major sappy boysenberry and
blackberry fruit with a moderately firm tannic backbone. The vivid fruit floods the mid palate in a weighty, dense
style. When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the nose was more fruity, the flavors were
more showy with added spice, and the finish exhibited more persistence. Surprisingly young, this is a 20-year
2016 Pisoni Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $80.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black grape juice, blackberry reduction and root beer. Mid-weight
plus in density, with an array of energetic dark fruits supported by a firm but sensible tannic backbone. The fruit
really floods the mouth with goodness and the sleek mouthfeel satisfies. An amazingly long finish makes this
wine stand out from the pack.
2017 Pisoni Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 725 cases, $90.
garnet color in the glass. Plenty of dark berry fruit to satisfy with complacent tannins and an unusually long
finish. Excellent but not extraordinary upon opening. The wine was a bit rustic and subdued and I was wishing
for more. I re-corked the bottled and waited a day. The next day it was like an angel had descended from the
heavens to infuse the wine with glorious appeal. The texture was unbelievably dreamy, the fruit had an
elevated purity, and I kept looking at the glass as if I could not believe what I was drinking. I have rarely
experienced the feeling that overcame me, and I understood why so many have been challenged to adequately
express the appeal of a special Pinot Noir. The wine tasted of perfection, a window to the Holy Grail. Reviewed
December 16, 2020.
2018 Pisoni Pisoni Estate XX Anniversary Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $90. The label
honors the Pisoni family's celebration of their twentieth vintage.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of black cherry, spice cake, oak vanillin and loamy earth. Silken and luscious on the palate with intense
blackberry and olallieberry fruit flavors in a mid-weight plus style. Rich but not jammy. Somewhat giving initially
with tame tannins and a modicum of cedar-toned oak. Still a Lolita and this wine will undoubtedly benefit from
another few years in the cellar. Not quite the seductive texture and mesmerizing charm of the 2017 vintage, but
still a grand wine in its own right.
2019 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $95. Unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of ripe strawberry, black cherry and earthy flora. The flavors echo
the aromas with a bit of spice. A bit lighter in this vintage, with a juicy underbelly and reserved tannins. Easily
enjoyed now, with excellent balance (no alcohol rears its head at this high ABV). Considerably more enjoyable
when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/238/. I have reviewed every vintage of Pisoni Estate Pinot
Noir from 2004-2018
Owners: Father Tondré and son Joe Alarid
Acres: 104 - 81 acres of Pinot Noir, 18 acres of Chardonnay, 3 acres of Riesling, and 2 acres of Syrah
Years planted: The original planting of 6.5 acres was in 1997.
Location: In the center of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA on its eastern border just to the south of Garys’
Aspect: Southeast-facing slopes at 300’-400’ elevation. Strong maritime influence from Monterey Bay.
Pinot Noir scions: Pommard 4, Dijon 115, 667, 777, 943, and faux 828, and Swan selection
Soils: Ancient glacial soils consisting of decomposed granite, gravelly and sandy loam.
Farming: SIP Certified sustainable. Meticulous farming by Joe Alarid who has garnered a reputation as one of
the region’s best growers. The focus is on efficient canopy management encompassing leaf pulling,
strategic water application and nutrient balancing.
Winery clients: Tondré Wines was started by Joe and his wife Penny in 2005. The winemaker is Anthony
Craig who also crafts Tondré vineyard Pinot Noir for his own Sonnet label and the Silver Mountain
label. Tondré wines are on the wine lists of many of California’s most notable restaurants. Other winery
clients have included Bernardus Vineyards & Winery, Cima Collina, Coterie Cellars, David Bruce
Winery, La Rochelle Winery, Morgan, Wrath, Testarossa, Joyce, Truckee River Winery, Sarah’s
Vineyard, Ser Winery, and Typicité Wines.
Comments: Over the years, I have drunk several vintages of Sonnet Tondré Grapefield Pinot Noir and the
wines were both superb and reasonably priced (but not well-marketed). One can find some vintages of
Sonnet and Silver Mountain Tondré Grapefield Pinot Noir through the Silver Mountain Vineyards
website and tasting room. Tondré Wines Pinot Noir is sold through a number of California wine retailers.
2015 Silver Mountain Vineyards Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $44.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A complex nose offers aromas of dark cherry, cola, earth, terra-cotta
and a hint of oak. Robuist, mid-weight plus wine, with flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, dark chocolate.
toast, and gingerbread. Velvety in texture with minimal tannins and a modest finish.
2016 Silver Mountain Vineyards Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is infused with aromas of cherry, raspberry and baking spices.
Impressive charm and balance in a middleweight style offering flavors of darker cherry and berries with the
faintest oak in the background. Appealing vibrancy with a deeply aromatic finish.
2017 Sonnet Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 340 cases, $45. Aged 20
months in 33% Hungarian oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Aromas of rose petal, pomegranate and subtle oak lead to a deliciously spiced black cherry core. Very
spirited with uplifting acidity and supportive tannins. Very fresh and appealing, a compliment of oak, and a very
persistent finish. Sonnet Pinot Noir wines are always a good value if you can find them.
2018 Montagne Russe Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
15.3% alc., 100 cases, $N/A.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. This is a well-oaken wine on both the nose and palate. Aromas of black
cherry compote and rose petal lead to a mid-weight plus styled wine with integrated tannins and a silken
mouthfeel. The alcohol is well submerged and the long finish is replete with ripe-fruited goodness.
2018 Morgan Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 126 cases, $65, Clones 777
and 115. 100% de-stemmed, native yeast primary fermentation, and aged 11 months in French oak barrels,
Enthralling nose with vibrant aromas of cherry, baking spices and sandalwood. Lighter weighted in
this vintage, with a core of red cherry and red berry fruits framed by caramel oak. Very charming in style with
soft tannins and good length on the finish. The light fruit is somewhat superseded by oak. Reviewed October 4,
2018 Tondré Wines Tondré Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $43.
garnet color in the glass. Well-scented, with aromas of cherry pie, baking spices and oak-driven vanillin and
caramel. Black cherry and purple berry fruit flavors lead the way along with hints of spice cake and oak. Suave
in texture, with balanced tannins and a gigantic finish that seems to last 30 seconds.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/86/