Santa Lucia Highlands & The Fabulous Sommelier Tour I Experienced

It is pretty obvious at this point for anyone who reads my blogs and follows me on social media, you know that I adore Pinot Noir wine. Not only because it’s something that is very accessible to me living in California, I also find it very approachable, delicious and really enjoyable on its own or with food. Being able to enjoy a wine by the glass without a juicy steak and hearty food is the style of wine I like vs. a heavy rich cabernet you cannot drink on its own.

This love for Pinot Noir has taken me on various winery visits and throughout California spending, significant time in Anderson Valley (approximately 2.5 hours north of San Francisco) read about my Top 10 Anderson Valley Wineries & Eats here , Sta. Rita Hills Top 10 Wineries here, Top 10 Santa Maria Wineries here, Russian River Top 10 Wineries here and most recently to The Santa Lucia Highlands.

For those not familiar with the Santa Lucia Highlands or SLH to the locals this is one of the coolest most consistent of the best Pinot Noir regions in California. Why is that? For starters, the region is located 10-11 miles from the ocean (as the crow flies, one of my FAVORITE wine terms describing the distance from a vineyard to the ocean directly through the sky vs. by road).

Santa Lucia Highlands Sommelier Tour

Our welcome from Morgan Vineyards Vintner Dan Lee

Santa Lucia Highlands Sommelier Tour

Welcome and introduction by moderator Matt Kattmann

Santa Lucia Highlands Sommelier Tour

Santa Lucia Highlands Sommelier Tour

The winemaker panel including winemaker David Lee of Talbott, Kerith Overstreet of Bruliam Wines, Adam Lee of Siduri Wines, Steve McIntyre of McIntyre Vineyards and Winemaker Dan Lee of Morgan Vineyards

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Morgan Vineyard Tour

One of our stops on the first day of the trip was at Morgan Vineyards. This may have been one of the most laid back coolest tastings. We were perched on the peak of the vineyard with Vintner Dan Lee leading us through a tasting paired with incredible Hog Island Oysters. This just felt very authentic, laid back, and was the perfect environment to learn about Morgan Vineyards, enjoy their wine while slurpin’ on delicious Hog Island Oysters!

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Talbott Vineyards & Winery

Another stop on our first day was Morgan Vineyards. Here we enjoyed a luncheon pairing back to their lovely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines as well as some barrel tastings led by Winemaker David Coventry and Wine Educator Ben McClure. I really enjoyed tasting through the various wines here and found the Sleepy Hollow Vineyards were my favorite. They were the more premium wines vs. the every day more accessible wines we also tasted.

Santa Lucia Highlands

Santa Lucia Highlands

Santa Lucia Highlands

Santa Lucia Highlands

McIntyre Vineyards

Steve McIntyre of McIntyre Vineyards is a Grower that I had met in the past at prior tasting and he was just as friendly and approachable as I remembered so it was fun getting to visit his Vineyard. It was interesting visiting his vineyards and hearing about the grapes and the growing process from a true farmer’s perspective. We also tried various other wines made with McIntyre Estate Vineyard grapes which were very cool during this visit.

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Steve literally in the vineyard explaining the ground, vine roots, and other farming technical details to the guests.

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

I am such a happy girl at McIntyre Vineyards. What a beautiful site and such an interesting visit with Grower Steve McIntyre!

Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

Garys’ Vineyard Tour & Tasting

One of the most magical and memorable stops during our three-day tour for me as at Garys’ Vineyard. Not only because owners Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni legendary winemakers and grape growers making some of the most highly sought after Pinot Noir grapes in California, also because of the fun we had during our visits to the Vineyard. We arrived and enjoyed a lovely welcome from Mark Pisoni and Gary Frascioni and his two sons.   After our welcome and tasting we enjoyed a tractor ride through the vineyard and concluding with a Dropping Fruit (aka trimming) of the vines. For as many vineyards as I have visited I have never had a chance to spend 30 minutes in the vineyard pruning the vines and learning first hand from the vineyard team how this is done. See below for more of this fabulous visit and all the fun we had!

Garys' Vineyard

Garys' Vineyard

Gary Franscioni welcoming the group and sharing more about the vineyard during our tasting.

Garys' Vineyard

Garys' Vineyard

Garys' Vineyard

The group enjoying a tractor ride through Garys’ Vineyard. This was a BLAST and something I recommend doing if you’re ever given a chance.

Garys' Vineyard

If you told me going into this trip that I’d get to ride in a grape bin around Garys’ Vineyard I would have never guessed this was part of the Sommelier trip. It’s fun unexpected adventures like this which are part of what make being a writer in the fabulous California Wine World so much fun!

Garys' Vineyard

Gary Pisoni’s son Mark Pisoni demonstrating how to drop fruit or prune the vineyards. We were taught if you have a vine with both purple and green grapes to trim the ripe green grapes off allowing the riper grapes to continue to receive more nutrients and create stronger, more flavorful grapes.

Garys' Vineyard

Working hard dropping fruit. I have never really gardened much but this exercise made me understand why people find gardening so therapeutic. It really was fun, granted I only did it for 20-30 minutes but I enjoyed it and now understand how it is done. This vineyard prunes every 12 days which are a highly labor-intensive exercise but clearly their grapes are some of the best in California for a reason and this is just one of the details contributing to their high-quality grapes.

Garys' Vineyard

 Our last stop was at Pisoni Vineyards, see more of that fun below and read the full blog post about Pisoni Vineyards here

Pisoni Vineyards

Views of Pisoni Vineyards as we waited for host, Gary Pisoni to arrive to the vineyards for our tour and tasting.

Pisoni Vineyards

The legendary Gary Pisoni arriving for our visit! I am beyond thrilled to get to experience this what an amazing experience.

Pisoni Vineyards

Pisoni Vineyards

Pisoni Vineyards

Cheers to a magical visit to Pisoni Vineyards. Thank you so much to Gary, Mark and the entire team for having us. I will never forget this time spent with your family learning about the rich history of your Winery over such lovely and incredible wines.

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