At one point during his two-year stint at Walden Pond, Thoreau tried his hand at small farming. “I came to love my rows, my beans,” he wrote in ‘Walden’, because “they attached me to the earth.” Each day at Pisoni, as we walk our own rows of vines, we are reminded that cultivating the earth—what Thoreau calls “this labor of the hands”—prompts a deep and abiding feeling for it. In turn, this sense of place, Thoreau suggests, helps produce a sense of self in farmers that is “steady and self-respecting.”
For decades, across the generations, our family has experienced the deep sense of place that farming brings. Ever since 1982, when Gary planted his first Pinot Noir grapevines in the rugged, granitic soils of our wind-scoured, high-elevation land in the Santa Lucia Highlands, we have known just how the morning sun will slant across the eastern-facing slopes of Pisoni Vineyard where we grow our Estate grapes. We know when to expect the wind that buffets the vines, bringing with it the blanketing fog from Monterey Bay that helps maintain the cool climate growing conditions that allow our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes to develop great structure and complexity.
And we know that working with the elements and with the earth requires not only time and energy, but also equal portions of vision and patience. A long-held dream drove Gary to plant Pinot Noir grapes on rugged, granitic soil. Patience, along with time and energy, kept him walking the land and waiting during the interim years with great anticipation for the first vintage of Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir in 1998.
That combination of imagination and patience helped Gary get “the Pisoni name etched into the record books as among the great, worldly wines” in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Chicago Wine Press notes. It also helped launch “the modern era of viticulture that has brought an extraordinary amount of attention to this slice of Monterey County”, Alder Yarrow writes for Jancis Robinson. Our family is grateful for accolades like this, as well as the tribute offered to us by wine and travel guide writer Shana Clarke, who called attention to the way our sustainability practices continue to “pave the way for viticulture in the Santa Lucia Highlands” in her beautifully illustrated book 150 Vineyards You Need to Visit Before you Die (2022).
If you followed the evolution of the great vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey, you will fully understand why the Pisoni name is etched into the record books as among the great, worldly wines in this region.Chicago Wine Press
The 2021 vintage was both distinct and a reprise, Gary’s son Jeff, the family’s vintner, and his brother Mark, Pisoni’s vineyard manager agree. “From the day the 2020 fire started in the Santa Lucia Highlands,” Mark explains, “we knew it would be a two-year wait between releases of our Pisoni Estate wine. Working with nature is a great thing, but it comes with the realization that we are not in full control. This is part of what makes this release one of our most anticipated ever. Farming is hands-on work, yes, but done right, it is a labor of heart and mind as well. We put so much of ourselves into our winemaking. Anticipating the 2021 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir and the 2021 Pisoni Estate Chardonnay for so long made these wines even more precious to us.”
“Because of the disappointment of the 2020 fires, we couldn’t wait to pick in 2021, but the weather was very mild in August and September. We sampled and tasted and waited until the perfect moment, a vintage that truly required patience, and were rewarded with a beautiful harvest,” Mark notes. Anticipation paid off: “The long wait resulted in sugar and flavor and phenolic development,” Jeff explains, “a brilliant vintage.”
“I am personally really looking forward to this release, too. I almost ran out of wine—and if you know me, you know that I don’t like running out of wine!” Gary chuckles, adding his enthusiasm to the anticipation for the 2021 vintage’s release.
Thoreau’s experiment with farming encouraged him to take the long view of the land. As farmers and vintners, the Pisonis understand this in their blood and bones. In the end, after a two-year absence, they feel grateful for the wonderful harvest. “We feel as if we’re being rewarded after a heartbreaking year in 2020,” Mark sums up. “These gorgeous wines seem like Nature’s way of evening things out.”
I am personally really looking forward to this release, too. I almost ran out of wine—Gary Pisoni
and if you know me, you know that I don’t like running out of wine!
Pisoni Estate Selections
The Pisoni Estate Chardonnay is crafted each year from the secluded, high elevation blocks of our mountainous vineyard. The rocky terrain provides fruit of structure, maturity, and complexity. A preview of this wine’s rich and powerful character is displayed through its deep lemon core with undeniable youth, tension, and vibrancy. Aromas of lemon peel, ripe melon, and pear tart create a fleshy approachability that is harnessed by restrained notes of Honeycrisp apple and a stony, almost saline, mineral undertone. On the palate, flavors of grilled white peach pair harmoniously with notes of brioche and candied ginger. A long, racy edge of fresh acidity keeps the voluminous components of this wine in a delicate balance, while 17 months of sur-lie aging in 50% new French oak barrels provide added texture to an already lengthy and complex finish.
Our much-awaited 2021 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir is the beautiful result of ideal growing conditions, diligent farming practices, and careful winemaking. Sporting a deep reddish-purple color that foreshadows the depth, this is one of our most exciting bottlings of recent vintages. Aromas of violets, black cherry, Santa Rosa plum, and spiced sandalwood emanate from the glass. The palate is equally complex and remarkably structured. The long growing season, careful fermentation and some whole cluster inclusion brings power and understated elegance with finishing notes of dark berry coulis and Herbs de Provence. The 2021 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir is a strict barrel selection sourced from six different blocks of our estate vineyard. This vibrant and structured wine will benefit from a long decant in its youth—but will reward with long aging in the cellar.