Once again there was an embarrassment of riches among the many excellent Pinot Noir offerings at the May 2016 SLH Gala. Pinots from the Santa Lucia Highlands tend to be bigger and bolder than their Burgundian counterparts, darker and denser and milder in their tannins. Some of this may be simply a California thing—Americans want fruit, not tannins, to predominate—some of it may be the wine stylings of our local winemakers. As always, the Gala gave visitors a chance to sample superb iterations of what the Santa Lucia Highlands can do for the pinot grape.
Among the many stellar offerings, Tantara and August West stood out to me, Tantara’s neatly precise pinot from the Tondre Grapefield and August West’s lush, lavish Pinot from Rosella’s Vineyard merit mention in future articles.
But special mention here goes to the 2011 Scheid Pinot Noir Reserve. Crafted by veteran (33 years!) winemaker Marta Kraftzeck, also Monterey county’s first female winemaker, the 2011 Reserve is a marvel of silk and steel: tannins to hold the fruit in place with fruit that is still fresh and succulent on the nose and palate after five years. Because the 2011 growing season was cooler than normal, yields were lower, thus producing wines with optimal acidity, smooth tannins and concentrated fruit. Unctuous yet focused, the 2011 Scheid SLH Pinot Reserve is both elegant and opulent, intense yet subtle, in short, a perfect example of how gracefully Pinot can age.
The grapes for this pinot come from Doctor’s Vineyard, which is planted on southeast facing terraces overlooking the Salinas River Valley. The ancient, glacial alluvial soil provides a loose, nutrient-depleted foundation to make the vines struggle while the grapes thrive in the foggy mornings and windy afternoon breezes coming off Monterey Bay.