California's Santa Lucia Highlands

Posted by CrushWine

The Santa Lucia Highlands has emerged as one of the star's of California's northern central coast. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the key grapes that have excelled here and California Pinot Noir aficionados will no doubt know the Pisoni and Sleepy Hollow Vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands. These vineyards produce some of the most coveted (and most expensive) Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit in California.

The fruit grown here is like no other. Combining the intense, sun-soaked days with foggy afternoons and evenings, the region has an extremely long growing season - this is key - so harvest can occur as late as November. The resulting wines are intense and show a luscious fruit with dazzling freshness and firm spines of acidity.

One of the factors that allows the Santa Lucia Highlands to achieve such a combination of ripeness and poise is that the mountain ranges run east to west, which allows cool afternoon fogs to come in from the ocean unobstructed and to settle in the vineyards until the next morning sun burns them off.

Another factor delaying ripening and building balance are the infamous "howler" winds that start in the afternoon. The winds are so intense that they can cause the vines to shut down and stop focusing on ripening through a complex moisture-conservation process. Combine these factors with beautiful terraced vineyards that face southeast allowing for maximum sunlight and you can begin to get a sense of what the best of Santa Lucia has to offer.