Spotlighting Pinot Noirs on California's Central Coast

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  • By Chris Costales
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Spotlighting Pinot Noirs on California's Central Coast

Our California Central Coast Pinot Noir tasting will explore this vast area, focusing on some of the remarkable wines coming from the Sta. Rita Hills region of the Santa Ynez Valley and Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands. Pinot Noir is often described as the heartbreak grape, more often than not destroying the best intentions of the many winemakers and vineyard growers who dared tried to handle this temperamental beast. These people only get one chance a year to hone their craft, which is notable due to the many hazards that can occur in the vineyard and cellar in any given year.


Sta. Rita Hills

Although California vineyards are often not in as marginal conditions as their old-world counterparts, they can have more than its share of threats during the growing season. The cool far west side of the Sta. Rita Hills is a perfect example of this due to its unique location being the only transverse valley on the west coast between Alaska and Chile, with hills that run east to west instead of north to south. This orientation exposes the region to cool coastal Pacific Ocean breezes as well as fog and high winds that are funneled through the area by the Purisma and Santa Rosa Hills. 

The Melville family is an early pioneer of the Sta. Rita Hills and much of the region's recognized quality is due to the hard work and determination of Ron and son Chad Melville of Melville wines.  Ron originally purchased acres of land here in 1996 before the area had received recognition as an official AVA (American Viticultural Area).  Chad Melville found success with the sought-after Samsara brand he helped create but after selling in 2002 he is busy working alongside his father raising the bar for Sta. Rita Hills wines with their devotion to their estate vineyards and commitment to high quality winemaking practices.


Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands is a hidden gem inside of cool climate Monterey, the perfect place for Gary Pisoni and sons Mark and Jeff to craft their wonderful Pinot Noir. The Pisoni family is now three generations deep into working the vineyards and crafting wine but their history stretches back longer as Gary’s parents first started farming in the Salinas Valley in 1952.

Row crops such as lettuce, cauliflower and beets were the main staples for the family farm business, but Gary saw the potential for grape growing on the dry rocky slopes of the higher elevations on their property that were only used for cattle grazing. While his parents were skeptical at first, he convinced them of the profitability of the venture by asking if they had ever been to a two-hundred-dollar lettuce tasting.


Today Gary leaves the day-to-day operations to his sons, winemaker Jeff  and vineyard manager Mark who farms organically and uses insectary gardens which attracts beneficial predators such as ladybugs, lacewings, lizards and spiders to the vineyard.  Jeff continues this natural approach by not heavily filtering the wines and not inoculating fermentations with commercial yeasts which he believes adds more complexity and allows the hard work his brother puts in the vineyard to shine.


We hope you come to the Central Coast California Pinot Noir tasting Friday August 16th at 7:30 and taste for yourself all the amazing work these and other quality producers are creating. $50 with 10 wines being featured, please call make reservations.

In the meantime, enjoy these fine examples of Central Coast Pinot Noirs that showcase these two sub-appellations.



Winemaker Matt Dees and his amazing vineyard and cellar team, which includes Ruben Solorzano of Stolpman Vineyards, have crafted an amazing vintage for us. The amazing Bentrock, Radian and Sanford & Benedict vineyards are sourced and blended together, creating an alluring perfumed Pinot Noir of black cherry and black plum. A rich color is achieved here as winds whip through the vineyards, shrinking the berries and thickening the grape skins for extra intensity. The texture is beautifully silky and balanced between fresh acidity, ripe fruit and subtle spiciness from oak and grape skins. This is one vintage I will be sorry to see gone so make sure to get yours while you still can.

$40.99 per bottle



This is a rich and voluptuous Pinot Noir full of quintessential Santa Maria fruit. Rich black cherry, cinnamon and a slight cola body with enough vanilla and barrel toast to give texture, weight and earth to round out the dark fruits. The fruit was all destemmed with nine months aging in French oak barrels that were a mixture of one to six years old. A crowd-pleasing style for sure which helps make it one of the best-selling domestic Pinot Noir in the store. A perfect anytime anywhere wine that pairs beautifully with friends and Santa Maria style barbecue!

$31.99 per bottle



Winemaker Chad Melville continues to set a high standard for Pinot Noir in this cool climate region with another great vintage. In this Pinot rose petal aromas along with strawberry and raspberry jump aromatically with each swirl of the wine glass. The cool climate regions sense of place speaks loudly as citrus blood orange and orange peel provide a pithy balance to the ripe red fruits. The refinement and quality here are a testament to all the hard work done in the cellar and vineyard. 40% whole stem inclusion with neutral French oak barrel aging.

$32.99 per bottle



Rick and Diana Longoria are some of the first pioneers in the valley to show the pedigree of the Pinot Noir grown here.   Fe Ciega is the family estate vineyard, planted by Rick in 1998 and is considered one of the “grand cru’’ sites in the valley. This fruit was entirely de-stemmed and inoculated specifically for the lot. 38% New French oak for 14 months and lightly fined and filtered. This Pinot is dark ruby with floral notes leading to black cherry with classic Fe Ciega hints of sage and cedar. Silky tannins support this sensual Pinot and hints of orange peel and currant dance on the edges of the palate. This pedigreed Pinot pairs with salmon, lamb, duck and rabbit.

$52.99 per bottle



Lucia wines are the sister label to the famed Pisoni Estate wines in Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands. Both labels are farmed and vinified by the Pisoni family, now three generations into making some of the best Californian Pinot Noir. This hidden gem of a region is an east facing bench land, full of morning fog and a persistent wind that blows consistently in the afternoon. The combination of these prolongs the growing season, making for an amazing mature Pinot Noir full of complexity and crisp natural acidity. Ripe red cherry, rose petal, black sage and barrel spice are all found inside. 11 months in 43% new French Oak with 20% whole cluster.

$62.99 per bottle


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