Farmers and vintners often stare at the sky, a habit they share with poets. In fact, both writing and winemaking require close attention to nature and the imagination and craft to transform it. A writer can show us sapphire in the deepening twilight and emerald in the wing of a hummingbird. The Pisonis, who work at the highest level of achievement, nurture equally gemlike creations into being. Greater than the possession of any jewels, for them, the joy of picking superlative grapes on their beautiful acres and breathing in the heady scent of wine in barrel at their Sonoma winery.
Nature, constantly fluctuating, can be mercurial. But the Pisonis’ faith in their work is not. The challenge they rise to with every vintage is to craft distinguished wine, regardless of each season’s flux and variations. 2020 was a particularly demanding year, not just in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Mark Pisoni, the family’s vineyard manager, and Jeff, its vintner, know this firsthand. In fact, when the River and Carmel fires began scorching the Santa Lucia AVA, Mark guided Cal Fire up the steep mountain terrain he and his brother have been familiar with since childhood, up a road “ten feet wide, full of dirt and rock, and so precarious you feel like you’re going to drive off a cliff” to help firefighters determine where to position bulldozers to create a fire line.
The Pisoni family’s spectacular acreage was not impacted by the fire. But the lingering effects of the blaze countywide, in combination with their intention to release nothing but the most distinguished wine regardless of the circumstances, led them not to release any reds from the 2020 vintage.
Instead, they’re delighted to announce their 2020 Pisoni Estate Chardonnay as well as to make possible the early release of their 2021 Lucia Pinot Noir. (Going forward designated as “Estate Cuvée, to pay tribute to the fact that this appellation blend is still a fully estate-grown wine.) To add extra luster to this release, they’re including a small number of library Estate Pinot Noir six-packs packaged in numbered custom wood boxes. Jeff calls the 2020 Estate Chardonnay a “diamond in the rough.” Though it was crafted during a rough year, it is an “elegant” wine of “great concentration,” one with excellent acidity and stunning vibrance.
The 2021 Lucia Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir is the family’s ruby. It possesses soft tannins and approachable fruit that make it drinkable now as well as later. Blended from grapes across a range of blocks on the family’s three vineyard sites, it is what both Jeff and Mark consider the most representative of their combined farming and winemaking efforts. Since many customers also miss the abundance of pinot noir this past year, they decided to release this 2021 vintage early rather than to wait until 2023. First among those waiting to uncork a few bottles is Jeff’s and Mark’s vintner-father Gary. Smiling broadly, he comments, “I’m glad the kids are releasing the wine early. My library is getting low!”
Whether gold or vermilion, all of the wines in this release will shine with color as vibrant as stained glass as you pour them into the glass. Just as the earth creates diamonds underground at great pressure, so the family knows what it is to demonstrate grace under pressure as farmers and winemakers. Never taking for granted the joy of creating high-quality wine, they continue to celebrate the fine fruits of their labor with this release.
You will notice a slightly new look to Lucia. This fall, we’re delighted to showcase a wine near and dear to our hearts: the first vintage of our 2021 Lucia Estate Cuvée of Pinot Noir.
In its former iteration, designated as the Santa Lucia Highlands or SLH cuvée, this wine consistently earned accolades. We felt the new name recognizes the provenance of our three estate vineyards and commitment to quality: a special blend of Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes Vineyards. Normally a Spring release, we are releasing this wine early so that our customers may enjoy more of our Pinot Noir in the absence of a 2020 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir this fall. 2021 was remarkable—the wine simply has beautiful exuberance and richness that we think you will love. Thanks to its concentration and verve, this wine is as drinkable now as it will be collectible in your home library.
Pisoni Estate & Lucia Selections
A true diamond in the rough, the 2020 Pisoni Estate Chardonnay proves that even in the most challenging vintages, this legendary site can produce a world-class example of this fabled variety. A richly hued yellow-gold core gives way to youthful tints of green as this wine stretches to the edge of the glass. Shimmering with each swirl, the high elevation slopes of Pisoni Vineyards make their mark as powerful notes of fresh yellow peach, red apple skin, and lemon oil swirl with aromas of toasted vanilla, marzipan, and wet stone. Comprised each year of a mere four barrels from our namesake vineyard, the resulting wine shows uncompromising depth and richness, while staying remarkably focused on the palate. Flavors of nectarine, baked apple, and ripe pear unfold with time and merge seamlessly with hints of oak and brioche from 15 months of undisturbed sur-lie aging in 25% new French oak barrels. A bottled memory of a year that won’t soon be forgotten, this beautiful Chardonnay will continue to tell its story well into the next decade.
Entirely estate-farmed and sourced from these premier vineyard sites within the Santa Lucia Highlands, the 2021 Lucia Estate Cuvée of Pinot Noir represents our continued dedication to excellence in farming and winemaking. A sumptuous blend of 60% Pisoni Vineyard, 23% Garys’ Vineyard, and 17% Soberanes Vineyard, this wine offers up enticing aromas of strawberry compote, juicy cranberry, sandalwood, and black tea leaves, all contained within the embrace of its deep ruby hue. Carefully monitored fermentation temperatures and methodical extraction techniques have produced a wine of remarkable depth, concentration, and complexity. Layers of black cherry, Mission fig, spiced plum, and berry crumble provide a stepping stone for more subtle hints of fresh sage, clove, and vanilla bean to make their voices heard. A true snapshot of these wind-swept vines, this Pinot Noir finishes with vibrant acidity and a distinct, yet noticeably approachable structure. Don’t be surprised to see this wine continuing to amaze for years to come.
As if frozen in time, the 2016 Susan’s Hill Syrah at six years old is still a powerhouse display from the Santa Lucia Highlands that has not yet begun to breach the outer limits of its full potential. Black as ink, the color of this wine has not shifted over time and still possesses the same concentration as the day it was bottled. This wine has showed its intention to age at a glacial pace, and is still tightly wound upon opening. As oxygen is introduced through time in the glass, subtle notes become pronounced. Spicy tobacco and black pepper give way to dark berry and cassis aromas that begin to burst forth as they mingle with waves of freshly ground coffee, anise, and cut violets. On the palate a distinctly spicy and savory component, driven by notes of iron and smoked meat, lead the way before supple flavors of blackberry preserves and blueberry add remarkable complexity. This dive into the library has given a snapshot of a wine that continues to have incredible structure and a level of acidity that rivals wines of a much younger vintage. Continued patience will most certainly be rewarded for those who can bear the wait.