The 2009 Pinot Noir harvest has wrapped up in Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, with winegrowers reporting potentially very high quality and normal yields.
Some of California’s finest vineyards call the SLH home, with more than 30 winegrowers cultivating more than 2,500 acres of Pinot Noir there.
At the Pisoni Vineyard, Gary Pisoni is very happy with the quality of his Pinot Noir harvest.
“The eventual ’09 vintage looks very promising,” Pisoni says. “It was the third consecutive dry winter, which limited yields, and the cool summer and fall — with only one small heat wave — gave us mature fruit at low sugar levels. We are seeing great density, acidity and high tannin levels.”
Dan Lee of Morgan Winery also is excited about the quality of the Pinot Noir off his organically-farmed Double L Vineyard.
“We started picking Pinot Noir on September 12 and are just now finishing up. It is a light crop, at about 100 tons — about 20 percent less than a ‘normal’ year. The fruit is very focused; quality looks very good.
“At mid-summer, we were five to 10 days behind a normal schedule. We had a temperate August with less fog and one warm spell that caught us up in sugar levels, but not necessarily in flavor development. The winemaker that looks to the flavors and not the sugar levels will be rewarded this harvest — patience was key.”
At neighboring McIntyre Vineyard, this year marked the 33rd Pinot Noir crush on one of the district’s oldest sustainably-farmed estates. Owner Steve McIntyre says, “It was a great growing season, on par with ’07, until Labor Day. Some heat spikes then accelerated sugar numbers with phenolic balance lagging behind.
“Happily, cool fall weather allowed the flavors to catch up and the fruit we brought in looks very good, indeed. Just slightly higher than normal crop levels off the McIntyre property, but very high quality. The ’09 vintage? Cool temperatures, no damaging rain, gentle ripening — just another perfect Pinot harvest in paradise.”
“Paradise” is not much of an exaggeration. And it’s certainly not mere hyperbole. 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 — which is why numerous bottlings from the region have been featured by the wine clubs of Vinesse through the years.
The appellation encompasses more than 5,000 acres of prime vineyards, planted on the elevated terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, all heavily influenced by close proximity to Monterey Bay. The area’s unique character was recognized with official American Viticultural Area status in 1991.