Pinots, Chards and more at the Santa Lucia Highlands Tasting

This past Wednesday I attended a trade and media tasting of the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) at Hinoki and The Bird in Century City. We had 25 SLH wineries pouring Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Riesling and other varieties. I made it through a decent number of the tables – juggling pen, program, wine glass and cell phone for photos as usual – so I will list my favorites and the full list of wineries and growers are at the bottom of this post. This is a link to a short slideslow.

Meridith May, Publisher and Editorial Director The Clever Root, The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal magazines, at the Talbot table.
Meridith May, Publisher and Editorial Director The Clever Root, The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal magazines, at the Talbot table.

Cima Collina

2014 Chardonnay, “Tondre Grapefield” had a small welcome amount of residual sugar in their Chablis-like Chard. The 2012 Late Harvest Riesling, “Tondre Grapefield” had a lovely mouth-coating viscosity.

Hahn Family Wines (everything they poured was exquisite)

The lightly oaked 2015 SLH Chardonnay; 2015 SLH Pinot Noir; and the terroir in both the 2014 Pinot Noir Lucienne “Smith Vineyard” and 2014 Pinot Noir “Doctor’s Vineyard.”


2013 Pinot Noir, Highlands Bench, had great bright fruit and spice.


2014 SLH Chardonnay and 2014 SLH Pinot Noir – both had some nice fruit.

Mansfield – Dunne

2015 SLH Pinot Noir for its remarkable nose.


A bright 2014 SLH Pinot Gris with a hint of lemon; a crisp 2014 SLH Chardonnay; and a simply perfect 2014 SLH Pinot Noir.


Nice to have a fun NV Methode Champenoise, the “l’Homme Qui Ris” which is made of 100% Pinot Noir and a 2015 Rose of Pinot Noir “Estate” – both served to cleanse and revive my palate.

Miner (everything they poured had lovely balance)

All 2014 Pinot Noirs: Gary’s Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard 777 and Sierra Mar Vineyard.

Miura (Again, I liked them all – and my top pick of the day was among them)

2015 SLH Pinot Noir, the 2010 Syrah Antiqv2s from both the Gary and Pisoni Vineyards that were huge and dry; and my pick of the day: the big and black 2015 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard.


2014 “G 17” Syrah was excellent with its addition of Grenache and Tempranillo and the 2015 Double L Vineyard Riesling had hints of dried pineapple and apricot.

Paraiso Vineyards (everything)

2015 Rose of Pinot Noir, Monterey, had nice low acid and residual sugar; 2015 Chardonnay, Monterey, also had low acid and good fruit; 2014 Chardonnay, Alexander-Smith LH for its flowery aromas and viscosity; 2014 SLH Pinot Noir; and a 2014 SLH Syrah.


2014 Pinot Noir, both the Gary’s vineyard and the Rosella’s Vineyard had a slightly sweet taste up front that just graduated into a lovely balance.


Starting with a 2014 Kali Hart Chardonnay that I enjoyed for its bright fruit and Chablis-like qualities; the 2014 Logan SLH Chardonnay; the 2014 Chardonnay from the Sleepy Hollow vineyard was my favorite; and a 2014 Logan Pinot Noir.


2014 Chardonnay, Fogstone Vineyard and a 2014 Pinot Noir, Doctor’s Vineyard.

Tudor (my final “liked everything” table)

2014 Riesling, Nacina, Tondre Grapefield; 2014 SLH Pinot Noir; 2014 Riesling; and the 2014 Nacina Ice Wine, Tondre Grapefield just had the most perfect mouth coating viscosity with layers of honey and jasmine.



Grower Labels

Many of the Highlands estates are “grower-only.” They focus their efforts on supplying the best grapes possible to outside wineries. But many of the SLH’s best-known winegrowing estates also have their own prestige labels. Winemakers the likes of Jeff Pisoni, Garrett Boekenoogen, Joe and Charlie Wagner, Paul Clifton, Steve McIntyre, Scott Caraccioli, and Dan Lee get to work with fruit off their own vineyards, from dirt to bottle, for their own personal statement labels.

Associate Labels

Many wineries, within and outside the SLH, purchase grapes from the appellation to craft their best releases. Adam Lee at Siduri and Novy. Michael Browne at Kosta Browne. Rob Jensen and Bill Brosseau at Testarossa. Emmanuel Kemijii at Miura. Ed Kurtzman at August West. Brian Loring at Loring Wine Co. Sabrine Rodems at Wrath. Dean DeKorth at Bernardus. Just a few of the wine industry superstars that rely on Santa Lucia Highlands’ fruit for their top vintages.

Eve’s Wine 101 Event Picks: Shakespeare and Love 2/11, Chocolate and Beer Tasting 2/12, Wine, Cheese and Chocolate 2/11, 2/12 and 2/14, Music and Wine 2/14, Lodi in LA 2/15, Sip and Learn 2/18, Beekeeper Cellars Release Parties 2/18 or 3/1, Rhone Rangers LA 3/25, Taste of the Valley 4/26, Masters of Taste 5/7. Ongoing: Events locally at Reyes Winery, Wine House events in WLA, LA Wine Tasting, Monopole Wine events in Pasadena and  Eve does Wine Themed Parties. FIND EVE AT: WSET LEVEL ONE SAKE COURSE 2/18, THE UNIVERSAL WHISKY EXPERIENCE APRIL 5-8 AND WINE IN THE PINES JUNE 10.

Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via