Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Santa Lucia Highlands – the wine jewel of Monterey County

Santa Lucia Highlands is truly a special place for winegrowing, particularly Burgundian varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  This premier cool-climate winegrowing district has over fifty of the most famous premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards are located here.  Almost 80% of the vineyards here are dedicated to these two Burgundian varietals, with many Rhone varietals occupying much of the rest.  On April 3 the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans came together at Mission Ranch Resort in Carmel to share some of the great wines from this region with members of the wine trade.  I know, a tough job, but someone had to go taste these wines.

Twenty-four wineries were present at this event showing off some of their most recent releases.   A few of the wines reviewed here come from estate vineyards that primary produce high quality grapes for other wineries, but have also decided to produce some of their own excellent wines.
Boekenoogen Vineyard and Winery is a family owned and operated vineyard established in 1998 when John Boekenoogen transformed his cattle ranch into a vineyard, producing outstanding grapes that many local winemakers used to produce fine wines.  A few years later they opened a small boutique winery to produce about 5000 cases of their own wines.  At this event they brought along their 2009 Chardonnay.  

This wine is a lush wine with subtle green apple aromas leading on to flavors of apple, honeydew melon, and pineapple.  The bright acidity and fruit coupled with a mineral quality leads on to a long pleasant finish. 

The Boekenoogen 2009 Pinot Noir has a beautiful deep red color with cherry, raspberry and cranberry on the nose and the palate, followed by an abundance of spices including cinnamon and pepper with vanilla flavors.

McIntyre Vineyards is proud of their certified sustainable vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands. Steve McIntyre was farming in a responsible, sustainable manner long before such practices became vogue.  Much of the grapes are also classified as organic or biodynamic also.   McIntyre Vineyards helped set the standards for sustainable farming in the area.  They brought the only Sparkling wine to the event, their L’Homme Qui Ris, Monterey’s first Methode Chamenoise style sparkling using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir estate grown fruit. 

The McIntyre 2010 Chardonnay, both the “Estate” wine and their special hand-selected “Block K1” wine.  The Chardonnaay Estate wine has a delightful complexity of apple, nectarine and lime flavors with nice minerality brightness on the palate.  The Block K1 Chardonnay kicks this up a notch with an intense nose and a silkiness mouthfeel that delivers a wonderful toast and vanilla quality.  This wine gets better with each taste.  

The 2010 Estate Pinot Noir from McIntyre has a strong fruit quality of red and black cherry, cranberry and a touch of plum.   Again, the 2010 Estate Block 3 Pinot Noir is in a higher class showing off what Santa Lucia Highlands wines can be with a very intense nose of red and dark fruit, toasted oak and savory spices.  As you taste this wine you will love its complexity of various fruits and a blend of spices resulting in a balanced but complex wine with a perfect blend of tannins, fruit and spices.

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