Gary’s strong connection to the land and the people that share his passion for premium wine has grown over more than three decades of farming cool-climate grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Vintner John Alban, master sommelier Sara Floyd, restaurateur Kirk Gafill and breast-cancer survivor Lucy Millman chime in to celebrate Gary and the rugged mountain vineyard that he loves.
Gary is as animated, passionate and whimsical a person as you could ever hope to meet. His love for wine, food and people is intoxicating.John Alban
John Alban knows a kindred spirit. The preeminent Central Coast vintner and Gary speak the same language, whether talking about lignified stems or the early days of the California wine industry. Although John refers to Gary as “one of the great patriarchs of the California wine trade,” the same can be said about him. He founded Alban Vineyards in San Luis Obispo County, the first American vineyard and winery established exclusively for Rhône varieties, and Hospice du Rhône, the world’s largest international celebration of 22 Rhône varieties.
Waxing poetic, John writes, “To the trained eye, Pisoni Vineyards is an amazingly balanced and harmonious overlay to the unique and varied property which it sits atop. Like a perfectly frosted cake, it adorns a beautiful and special layer of land that lies below, bringing balance and elegance without overwhelming the natural attributes of the soil. Every vine fits in its trellis—its place—with appropriate vigor, exposure and crop.”
It is impossible to describe Gary in a paragraph. He is brilliantly smart and one of the true visionaries in the wine world. He is one of the most enthusiastic and generous people I know and is fully committed and uncompromised to crafting world-class wines.Sara Floyd
Sara Floyd has swirled, sniffed and sipped through many wine tastings with Gary. She began her career working under the tutelage of master sommelier Larry Stone at Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco. One of 19 women in the world to have earned the title of Master Sommelier, the managing partner of Swirl Wine Brokers in Northern California and Luli wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands notes, “The Pisoni Estate wines are meticulously made and possess great structure and purity. They simultaneously balance intensity and delicacy. The wines have great natural acidity and refined tannins that allow them to be excellent for aging.”
Gary is an extraordinary and visionary wine grower who has been instrumental in creating world-class wines in the Santa Lucia Highlands.Kirk Gafill
Restaurateur Kirk Gafill pairs wine and food on a daily basis at the legendary Nepenthe Restaurant, perched high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The third-generation family owner and manager of the Big Sur landmark grew up with the breathtaking views and tight-knit community that he now fosters through his generous hospitality. “Pisoni Estate wines represent the most important values I try to bring to my restaurant and wine list, those of family ownership, outstanding artisanship, and their sense of place from a unique and exceptional vineyard in our backyard,” Kirk says.
Gary is Bacchus personified with a heart of gold.Lucy Millman
With the help of Pisoni Vineyards, two-time breast cancer survivor Lucy Millman has raised more than $160,000 for research to find a cure for the disease. The Sonoma County resident has tirelessly raised funds through “pink parties” and breast cancer walks.
Showing his philanthropic side, Gary has become a standard fixture at fundraising events for cystic fibrosis and other good causes. Dinners at Pisoni Vineyards are popular auction items that have brought numerous guests to the table—and on those infamous Jeep rides.
A blend of barrels and different vineyard blocks from our mountainous property, the 2013 vintage shows beauty, purity and structure. It has a seductive perfume of violet, blackberry and wild strawberry that fills the glass. Hints of baking spice and lavender follow. This vintage has a high level of tannins—a result of the rocky, high-elevation soil and meager seven inches of winter rainfall. The finely integrated tannins give a great deal of breadth to the wine and an expansive feel on the palate. The growing season was cool, giving great acidity. This natural acidity, along with the structure, will deliver a wine that will reward years of cellaring. Allow it time to rest in the cellar before opening. And if patient, the wine will age up to two decades.
Sourced from six different and very small blocks of Chardonnay at Pisoni Vineyards, we select only four barrels for this special blend. Many of these vines are over 30 years old and are some of the original vines that Gary Pisoni planted. This wine is a beautiful and expressive Chardonnay. The aromatics are a complex array of lemon zest, tangerine peel, jasmine, white peach and brioche. The high elevation and shallow soils make for a very textural expression of Chardonnay—broad, with a long finish and tight acidity. Enjoy now or age for a decade.
Deep purple and possessing explosive aromas, the Susan’s Hill Syrah hails from a single ridge at Pisoni Vineyards. The wine puts forth an aromatic array of fresh blackberries, white pepper, leather, the freshness of mint and the subtleties of dried roses. The tannins are dense and powerful, stemming from the low yields and granite-laced soil at this site. This is a very long-lived wine that will require decanting if you are opening when young. If aging, it will reward you—the Syrah has the tannins and intensity to age gracefully for many years.