New Releases: 2010 J. Lohr Highlands Bench Pinot Noir & Chardonnay


Today, we are thrilled to announce the long-awaited release of two new wines to our Vineyard Series portfolio:  2010 J. Lohr Highlands Bench Pinot Noir and 2010 J. Lohr Highlands Bench Chardonnay, made from the first fruit harvested in our new vineyard plantings in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County.  For the next several months, these wines will be available exclusively in our tasting rooms, to our wine club members and for purchase online.

When we first introduced these wines this past weekend at our Wine Club Highlands Bench Preview events in San Jose and Paso Robles, we were asked by some folks why we’ve decided to release yet another Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to our already well-rounded portfolio. The answer is this: the styles of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays available out there today are as diverse as the palates of wine drinkers, and these varied styles have as much to do with the growing conditions of the grapes used as they do with the winemaking techniques employed in their production.

Unlike our Arroyo Seco Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, whose rich, Burgundian styles reflect the fog, wind, cool air and gravelly soils in which they are grown, our new 2010 J. Lohr Highlands Bench wines are markedly Californian in style, full of voluptuous fruit flavors. Grown on eastward-facing terraces on the slopes of the Santa Lucia mountains to the west of the Salinas Valley, the vines are grown at altitudes between 280 and 600 feet, are bathed in warm sunlight, and receive gentle ocean breezes off of Monterey Bay, leading to bold fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry in our J. Lohr Highlands Bench Pinot Noir and intense tropical flavors of passion fruit, pineapple and juicy, ripe peach in our J. Lohr Highlands Bench Chardonnay.  To accentuate the New World styles of our Highlands Bench wines, our winemakers used several native fermentations, more malolactic fermentation and a higher percentage of new oak. As a result, these wines display beautiful, compelling structure and a lush, velvety mouthfeel.

Some of the country’s most acclaimed Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are coming out of both the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations. But which are better? Here at J. Lohr, we believe you are the best judge of that. This spring, we invite you to come into our J. Lohr Wine Centers in San Jose or Paso Robles for a complimentary tasting of this exciting first release of our Highlands Bench wines. We look forward to hearing about your first impressions!

Garnet Monterey County Pinot Noir 2012

Garnet Monterey County Pinot Noir 2012

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The 2012 Garnet Monterey County Pinot Noir is sourced from Garnet Vineyards estate vineyards near the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in Monterey County, California. This Pinot Noir lists for $14.99, but its tech sheet reads like a far more expensive Pinot. First, Garnet grew the grapes themselves, then they aged the Pinot Noir in 100% French oak barrels, 60% new barrels, the rest, used barrels, for 11

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A perfect day in a breathtaking place to enjoy the SLH Gala 2015. At Mer Soleil Winery celebrating the IX edition of the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Gala tasting event. The vineyards on the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA are planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, verging on the Salinas River Valley; between 50 and 2,000 feet in altitude.

The fog and breeze off nearby Monterey Bay flow southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a unique cool climate. This distinguished wine grape growing district enjoys a great variation between morning and afternoon temperatures. This variance in temperature allows for a prolong even ripening of the grapes. The grapes developed fully, lush in phenolic compounds, ripeness and flavors.

The event started with a VIP “Beyond Pinot… Discussion and Tasting”. A distinguished group of winemaker panelists: David Coventry/Manzoni Vineyards, Chris Weidemann/Pelerin Wines and Sabrine Rodems/Wrath Vineyards, shared their passion with us. This remarkable winemaking region, distinguished by making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir also grows seventeen other grape varieties. A unique take on the panel tasting, to show wines made with other grapes besides Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

At the Seminar we tasted:

  • Manzoni 2013 Pinot Gris, “North Highlands’ Cuvée”: Floral aromas with pear and green apple on the palate. A crisp and balanced wine that enticed you with intense aromas, velvety mouthfeel, and bright acidity. Spicy lingering notes on the finish. This wine doesn’t go trough malolactic fermentation, use of Batonnage (stirring of the lees). Half of the fruit fermented in new French oak and half in stainless steel tanks. Suggested retail price, $23.
  • Pelerin 2011 “Les Tournesols”: (72% Roussanne and 28% Viognier): Bouquet of sandalwood, lavender, fresh cut grass, and perfume. Fresh yellow fruit flavors with a punch of spice and subtle mineral notes that finish long. The wine, aged in neutral oak barrels also went trough malolactic fermentation. Suggested retail price, $30.
  • Wrath 2013 Syrah, KW Ranch: Attractive aromas of Brown spices, juniper, violets, ripe plum and cardamom. On the palate, you enjoy flavors of ripe dark fruit, smoked meats with notes of black pepper. This wine with offers pleasant tannins, nice acidity and balanced palate. The winemaker decided to leave a certain percentage of stems on the grapes to promote acid binding. Suggested retail price, $39.

After the wine tasting seminar, we enjoyed a cheese seminar sponsored by local store Star Market in Salinas and Schoch Family Farmstead also located in the Salinas Valley. Mr. Michael Burke, Specialty Cheese Department Manager from Star Market, shared his cheese and wine pairing skills. Michael talked about Star Market amazing cheese selections and recommended to try various cheeses paired with Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay and Belle Glos Pinot Noir. Cheesemaker Beau Schoch shared the history on Schoch Family Farmstead and two of his delectable cheese creations, Mt. Toro Tomme: Semi-hard, mild and buttery with a lactic finish. Monterey Jack: hardy and robust with a sharp finish. Exquisite cheeses paired with some of Wrath wines.

The Mer Soleil Barrel Room was the perfect backdrop for the forty plus wineries from the Highlands pouring their wines alongside delicious bites of gastronomic creations from local chefs and restaurants. Kosta Browne shared two outstanding Pinot Noirs, their single vineyard 2012 Gary’s Vineyard and the 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands. Both wines show intense aromatics of fruit and earth and powerful dark and red fruit flavors, nice acidity, and gentle tannins. The Gary’s vineyard has more of the earthy aromas and mineral notes. Enjoyable wines by themselves, but great with many food preparations, like roasted pork, smoked salmon and seared lamb chops.

From Testa Rosa Vineyards well crafted 2013 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both from Dos Rubios Vineyard. The Chardonnay has enticing aromas of ripe banana, green apples and hints of spice. On the palate this elegant Chardonnay has a silky texture with flavors of pear, apples, sweet vanilla and hints of citrus with a refrained amount of oak. The Pinot Noir full of red fruit, red currants hints of spice and elegant, earthy notes. Testa Rosa wines paired perfectly with the two sushi offerings from Ocean Sushi, thanks to Chef Shiho Fukishima for the exquisite culinary creations.

The Mer Soleil, the 2013 Reserve Chardonnay seduce you with citrus and stone fruit aromas and hints of honeysuckle and Brioche. On the palate, this Chardonnay feels medium-body refreshing and creamy with flavors of golden apple, tangerine, passion fruit and hints of caramel. In contrast with its counterpart. The 2013 Mer Soleil Silver (non-oaked Chardonnay) shows citrus and ripe kiwi aromas. In the mouth, you feel bright acidity with flavors of granny apple, mandarin, apricots, and guava. The finish is dry and crisp; this is a wine that will pair great with a diverse range of cuisines.

From Morgan Winery we savored the 2013 Double L Pinot Noir, this Pinot Noir lures you with vivid aromas of coffee bean, dark berries, and fresh mushrooms, with notes of dried meat and toast. On the palate, you can rejoice in intense flavors of blueberry tart, ripe plum and baking spices with a touch of butterscotch and smoke. This well crafted Pinot Noir paired very well with a delightful bite to eat from Chef Todd Fisher (Tarpy’s Roadhouse). Chef Fisher delighted us with a charred octopus tapenade, green olives, red cabbage, chickpeas, capers, parsley, lemon juice and pearl onions with a pesto aioli. Served on the side with a slice of baguette and Romesco sauce on top. The wine brought out the smokiness of the charred octopus and complimented nicely with the rest of the ingredients. The subtle pesto aioli was the magic touch that merge all the ingredients together.

The SHL Gala tasting event captivated us with a collection of impressive wines and delicious food to pair with them. The exceptional characteristics of the terroir of the SLH-AVA showed on the complexity that unified all these remarkable wines. The Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Organization is doing an exceptional job in getting the word out about this superb wine-growing region.

Savoring at SLH Gala 2015 A perfect day in a breathtaking place to enjoy the SLH Gala 2015. At Mer Soleil Winery celebrating the IX edition of the Santa Lucia Highlands…

We photographed Food Network star chef Justin Warner as he toured a Robert Mondavi vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands with winemaker Rick Boyer. Justin has a TV show called Rebel Eats and he was out west to learn about Mondavi’s wine making process because he is now a spokesperson for Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection brand. We photographed them in the vineyard and then at a picnic lunch under some Oak trees. My assistant Nate and I then proceeded to get kinda drunk as we tasted thru the wines with them and the clients. Thanks guys, we had a blast.

Lucy 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé

The taste The deep color alone makes some say Lucy’s a Rosé that wants to be a red wine. It is made from pinot noir grapes grown in the Lucia Vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands of California, and is a medium-bodied wine that’s a real thirst quencher and refreshing on the palate. The cherry taste is lively and stands out from the other berry flavors underneath. Lucy’s truly the best of the summer Rosés. Really.
Goes well with • Anything 
Price • Under $20 
Backstory • In April, when I brought a bottle of Lucy to the counter at the Enoteca Wine Shop in Calistoga, Calif., the owner, Margaux Singleton, told me I made a good choice. She might as well have stuck a gold star on my pointy head. Singleton’s knowledge of wine is vast, but she’s no wine snob. She puts customers at ease; I admitted to her that I wanted the bottle because of the cursive writing on the label.

Below is the email I received from Margaux when I recently got back in touch with her to find out more about Lucy. This does make this a longer blog posting, but these wise words from Margaux are well worth your time. 

Re the 2010 Lucy Rosé of Pinot Noir (under $20 retail), there is nothing bad anyone could say about this bottle—only favorable words from start to finish.  First, one dollar of every bottle is donated to breast cancer research.  Second, the color is so deep as to be a rosé that really wants to be a red wine.  For those folks who say they don’t like rosé, this wine could entice them to stop saying they “can’t/won’t/don’t do rosé.”

If anyone knows Gary Pisoni then it is understood that this is a big beautiful whopping bottle of delicious juice.  And yet it is not over the top or out of balance.  The day the rep came to pour me a sample for consideration in my wine shop I was not seeking a rosé at that time since the store already had several choices.  It was early Spring in a year where Spring came late and winter stayed long with an extended spell of cold wet weather.  It wasn’t exactly rosé season, at least for those who don’t drink it throughout the year.  Which is a shame because in truth a fine rosé is the perfect foil to turkey on Thanksgiving Day and looks very festive on the table for the Christmas holidays too.  

But I digress.  One taste of the 2010 Lucy Rosé of Pinot Noir and I was smitten.

A couple weeks ago while in Carmel for a few days of sampling wine lists at numerous restaurants, I asked my dear wine geek friend with whom I was staying if we could drive out to the Santa Lucia Highlands wine appellation from whence cometh The Lucy.  Drive time is more than an hour to get there so it is a full day commitment to cruise through the region and stop in to taste as we did at a few wineries.  I was impressed to see the numerous well-kept vineyards etched out of the hillside for miles and miles.  The day was fun and informative and made one thirsty to keep sampling wines from this region.    

Happy sipping.
Discovering the wines of California’s Santa Lucia Highlands

No one sitting around the table had ever traveled to the Santa Lucia Highlands. And, truthfully, most of us had never heard of this tiny wine-growing region in California’s Monterey County before registering for this wine class. “You’d have to be a real wine geek to seek out the rustic place,” admitted our teacher, Salt Lake City wine educator Sheral Schowe. But wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH), she …

Wrath | 2010 Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah

Wrath has been making some of the most exciting wines of which we’ve sampled in 2012. Hailing from Central California and having a tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea they’re making some wonderful stuff.

This syrah was dark and inky with big clumps of fruit and notes of black pepper all enclosed with a velvety mouth. Delicious. 

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Photo by Edgar Solís

On May 16 Santa Lucia Highlands Artisans will be celebrating their 9th Gala tasting event at Mer Soleil Winery. Come and taste wines from forty premium wineries, they will be sharing heavenly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. For many of the boutique wineries participating, this is the only public tasting of the year. The event will take place in the scenic Mer Soleil Winery located on the eastern end of this coastal appellation of Monterey County.

In 1991, the Federal government designated the Santa Lucia Highlands (SHL) as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA). The grape growing history of this region goes back to the 1790s, with the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries. First commercial plantings started in 1973, with a second round of vineyard plantings in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, about fifty vineyard estates encompassed 6,100 acres of vines.

The vineyards of the SLH are planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, verging on the Salinas River Valley. The fog and breeze off nearby Monterey Bay channel southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a unique cool climate. The high altitude vineyard sites take full advantage of the morning sunshine before the chilled, afternoon maritime winds slow down the sugar production on the grapes, allowing a prolong, even ripening. The growing season is long, starting with early bud break and lack of fall rains. The grapes developed fully, lush in phenolic compounds, ripeness and flavors.

SLH member wineries expected to pour at this year’s Gala include: August West, Belle Glos, Bernardus, Black Kite, Boekenoogen, Cattleya, Estancia, Hahn Family Wines, Hawks View, Hope & Grace, J. Lohr Highlands Bench, Joyce, Kori, Kosta Browne, La Rochelle, Loring, Mansfield – Dunne, Manzoni, McFarland, McIntyre, Mer Soleil, Miner, Miura, Mooney, Morgan, Novy, Paraiso, Pelerin, Pessagno, Pisoni/ Lucia, Poppy, Prim, Puma Road, Roar, Sarah’s Vineyard, Saxon Brown, Scheid, Siduri, Tantara, Testarossa, Tondre, Tudor, and Wrath.

Alongside quality wines, enjoy local gastronomy with sensual bites from various of the region’s best chefs. Including Dyon Foster from Hahn, Todd Fisher from Tarpy’s, Tim Wood from Carmel Valley Ranch, Cal Stamenov from Bernardus Lodge, James Waller from the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and many more. Bid on the big format wine bottle silent auction, benefiting Rancho Cielo Youth Campus. Harmonizing the event, live music from the Mario Flores Sontet.

A “VIP SLH Experience” ticket is available. The ticket includes two pre-Gala seminars: “Artisan Cheese Summit” a discussion and tasting with local cheese craftsmen, and “Beyond Pinot” seminar with SLH winemakers presenting interesting varietals other than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. VIPs also get early admission to the main Gala tasting and auction. Get your tickets at Santa Lucia Highlands Gala.

9th Santa Lucia Highlands Gala tasting Photo by Edgar Solís On May 16 Santa Lucia Highlands Artisans will be celebrating their 9th Gala tasting event at 

Hi, check out this surprising wine! Name: Roher 2005 Pinot Noir Vineyard: Gary’s Vineyard Vintage: 2005 Varietals: Pinot Noir Price: $50.00 Type: Red Country: USA Region: California > Santa Lucia Highlands My Rating: 5 - Very Good My Notes: Great complex nose of dark cherry, light spice, and light flowers. Complex on the palate with a long finish. If $50 is within your budget, this wine is worth it! Location: 10 Winos Date: Jan 15, 2013 Cheers! If you dont have Wine Snob on your phone you can download it here. Rodney Patches

Pinot Noir & Tod Mun Pla

Got off from work… a really really long day. All I wanted was some sort of wine to go with dinner. Since it was already 9pm, I couldn’t be bothered with anything too serious, so I went to my “cellar” (aka closet) and fumbled for an unassuming bottle.

Bordeaux? No. Burgundy? No. Toscana? No. Found it!

Nothing fancy here, and I have no faint recollection at all regarding where I got the wine. A Californian Pinot Noir, the bottle was simple and not fancy in American terms, ie, not in a bullet proof bottle that weighs a tonne. I do not recall ever purchasing the wine, so let’s assume that it was from a gift hamper.

Super high alcohol, with dense dense strawberry flavour that was tipping onto the cherry syrup spectrum. Not elegant and calling for too much attention, the “medicinal” value of the wine was immediate. I was soothed and wanted to eat some FOOD and wash it down with ALCOHOL, just to soothe my nerves. Hits the spot, definitely.

The best surprise was, it was delicious with Tod Mun Pla, little thai fish cakes. Totally unexpected, the fruitiness of the wine was a great match with the kaffir lime leaves nestled into the fish patties. The sudden pop of herbaceous-ness was like a cool mist in dreadful heat, and the accentuated minty flavour surely lifted my spirits. Who says Thai cuisine has to be matched with white aromatics?

Information from Wine-searcher ~HKD$300
14.3% alc. by vol.

White Hart 2012 Pinot Noir - Red Wine - $21.99
Red Wine by White Hart from Central Coast, California. Grown on the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Santa Lucia Highlands, 42 years old, sustainably farmed. Complex aromas and flavors of dried cherries, raspberries, plum, clove, nutmeg and lavender. Firm, gentle tannins, lightly accented by toasted French and American oak. A serious wine with velvety texture and lively finish. 100% Pinot Noir. Pairs with a very wide variety of foods.