The 2010 wine grape harvest in California’s Santa Lucia Highlands appellation was a couple weeks behind schedule, due to an unusually cool spring and summer in Monterey County.
But the same conditions that delayed the start of crush also combined to allow slow, gentle ripening and maturation of the area’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit – making for a potentially very high-quality crop.
Some of California’s finest vineyards call the Highlands home, and 2,729 acres of Pinot Noir and 2,034 acres of Chardonnay are currently planted there.
At the Pisoni Vineyard, Gary Pisoni said, “Cooler years are always welcome; they extend the growing season and allow for slow and steady ripening. Being close to the ocean with fog and moisture, though, things can still be ‘too cool.’ This year has seen one of the coldest summers on record for many parts of California. Fortunately, the Santa Lucia Highlands are also very windy, which keeps the grapes dry. Rains usually start later in the year, giving us the extra time needed time to ripen, hopefully turning a challenging year into a truly great vintage.”
Dan Lee of Morgan Winery also was excited about the potential quality at his organically-farmed Double L Vineyard in the Highlands. “If there was an award for healthy vines, we would have won it this year,” he said. “However, our awards come from the wines we produce, and although hard to predict right now, the wines should be home runs or, at least, triple baggers.”
Rich Smith at Paraiso Vineyards took part in his 34th harvest in the Santa Lucia Highlands. He commented that the “Pinot Noir was about three weeks behind in sugar development compared to 2009; however, the flavor development in the berries was very close to ‘normal.’ The slower overall development of the 2010 harvest is creating a greater ‘flavor separation’ of different Pinot clones than we have seen before.”
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, Riesling, and Syrah. The appellation encompasses 46 estates, with 5,900 acres of prime vineyards.