Harvest Report: Santa Lucia Highlands

    The 2008 Pinot Noir harvest is wrapping up in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County, with winegrowers reporting potentially very high quality and lower-than-normal yields.

     Some of California’s finest vineyards call the S.L.H. home, with more than 30 winegrowers cultivating 2,500 acres of Pinot Noir there.  


     At the Pisoni Vineyard, Gary Pisoni is very happy with the quality of his just-completed Pinot Noir harvest.

     “It should be another excellent vintage in the Santa Lucia Highlands,” he said. “We are thrilled with the fruit harvested from our ranches. Our yields were down, so you will see less Pinot in the marketplace, but quality was as good as ever.”

     The crush at Pisoni ran along fairly traditional timelines, beginning in mid-September and finishing in late October. 


     At neighboring Paraiso Vineyards, this year marked the 32nd Pinot Noir crush on one of the district’s founding, sustainably-farmed estates. General Manager and second-generation owner Jason Smith commented: “It was a successful, if relatively late, harvest for us, thanks to a cooler-than-normal summer. But enough early fall heat finished things up nicely, achieving phenolic ripeness in the grapes after a long, gentle hang time.”

     The crush at Paraiso began the first week of October on some of the newer Dijon clone blocks, and finished up on October 28 in the older, original Martini clone plantings. All told, Smith reports picking approximately 300 tons of Pinot Noir.

     Paraiso winemaker Dave Fleming is enthusiastic about 2008 quality: “The incoming Pinot fruit has very good color and seems nicely balanced. Ferments are running very smoothly, with few surprises.”


     Dan Lee of Morgan Winery also is excited about the quality of the Pinot Noir off his organically-farmed Double L Vineyard.

     “It was a very long, extended harvest,” he said. “We started picking Pinot Noir on September 12. It is a light crop — at 94 tons, about 40% less than a ‘normal’ year. The fruit is very focused; quality looks very good, with lower acids and great balance allowing us to pick at lower sugars. The eventual 2008 vintage wines should make a nice complement to the exceptional 2007 S.L.H. Pinots — two very good years in a row.”      


     The Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the crown jewels of California viticulture, growing and producing some of the state’s best cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The appellation encompasses more than 5,000 acres of prime vineyards, and its unique character was recognized with official AVA status in 1991.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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