If you stand on the hillside at Garys’ Vineyard and look to the north, you can see the fog bank rolling in on the horizon. At the height of summer, when the mercury rises across the United States, the coast stays cool.
So does Garys’ Vineyard. After the wind batters the coastal landscape, it blows across the Santa Lucia range and funnels down into the Salinas Valley. Perched five hundred feet above the valley floor, on the east-facing slopes of the beautiful Santa Lucia Highlands, Garys’ Vineyard receives the brunt of the wind. “From up here,” says Jeff Pisoni, the family’s vintner, “the wind whips past you. As you look out toward Monterey Bay it feels like you’re sailing upon the water rather than standing on the ground above it.” And then there’s the sound, “deafening as the wind beats against the trees and the vines like a tide,” adds Jeff’s brother Mark, the family’s farmer.
The 20mph winds and the fog that comes with it most mornings and evenings can be a surprise to travelers expecting the blistering heat that settles elsewhere in summer. But along with decomposed granite and sandy loam soils, this cool climate creates optimal growing conditions for Pinot Noir.
The 2021 Lucia Pinot Noir marks the twenty-five-year anniversary of the grape’s first planting at Garys’—an impressive milestone. Gary Pisoni reflects, “it is amazing to see how far we have come in 25 years —everyone knows and loves the Pinots from the Garys’ Vineyard”. Mark and Jeff are proud of this vintage too: with its deep ruby hue, its complex and nuanced aromas, and its elegant tannins, it is quintessential Pinot.
Higher up the slopes and to the south lie the vines at Susan’s Hill. At an elevation of 1,300 feet, Susan’s Hill occupies one of the highest altitudes of any vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. With your back to the green tendrils of the vines, you can look up to the 4,000-foot-high peaks of the range or down upon the steep cliffs that fall away below the ridgeline at Pisoni Vineyards. This is rugged country, whose hills are composed of granite and quartz along with schist, a metamorphic rock created at great pressure: perfect circumstances in which to develop the beautifully-structured Syrah that makes its home here. For the first time, the Pisonis are releasing their Susan’s Hill Syrah in summer.
Whether you hear the wind whistling through the canyons that surround Susan’s Hill or feel it lashing your hair at Garys’ Vineyard, you won’t help but feel a part of the grandeur of these expansive landscapes. For the Pisonis who work every day amid the vines that produce distinguished Pinot Noir and Syrah, that sense of confirmation and connection never wavers.
Yet another sublime chapter in the long and increasingly fabled history of this renowned vineyard, the 2021 Lucia by Pisoni Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir wastes no time as its deep ruby hue paints the edges of the glass. Loads of black cherry, crushed strawberry, and sandalwood take center stage while secondary aromas of fresh cedar, clove, and sage create a stunning olfactory experience. Capitalizing on the mild summer temperatures created by ever-present fog and coastal wind, the vines rooted deeply in the sandy loam soils ripened these berries slowly and methodically. The slow ripening process produced a wine of exceptional depth and concentration, giving way to delicate notes of baking spice and toasted vanilla. Over time in the glass, the wine’s structured infancy evolves to soft and elegant approachability as tannin begins to soften. The delicious Pinot Noir has all the components to age and evolve beautifully over the next decade and beyond.
Traditionally a variety possessing the deeper shades of purple, the 2021 Susan’s Hill Syrah takes this tradition to an extreme with its inky black. The heady aromas that flutter from the glass in waves offer perfumed cassis and graphite that become laced with savory undertones of bacon and smoked meat. Still showing restraint in its infancy, a combination of time and air slowly coax this Syrah from its dormancy. The palate becomes generous and layered, as the pronounced flavors of brambly berries and fresh anise surround the subtleties of pencil shavings and cacao. Each nuance has been achieved through cool, slow fermentation in stainless steel open top tanks and delicate extractions via twice daily hand punch downs of the 80% whole cluster ferment. The vibrant acidity keeps this formidable wine light on its feet while the firm tannin suggests it has a long life ahead.