California is so big and its growing regions so varied yet its wines are often mistakenly all lumped together. There are very hot growing regions in California, like Paso Robles, however there are certainly cooler sites like the Sonoma Coast and the northern reaches of Monterey County. The Monterey AVA itself is so long and varied that at its northern end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow and at the southern end of the AVA you’ll find conditions to easily ripen Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s that cooler northern end of the AVA where you’ll find the sub-appellation that has become a California sweet spot for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, grapes made famous in the cool climate of Burgundy.
In the Santa Lucia Highlands you’ll find a serendipitous set of growing conditions that allow for these cool climate grapes to thrive in the largely warm and dry growing conditions of California. The Santa Lucia Highlands sit on the western facing slopes of the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Above the Salinas River cool fog coming in from Monterey Bay funnels south between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountain ranges. The elevation and maritime influence coupled with California’s long sunny season make for ripe wine grapes with ample acidity.
2014 Hahn SLH Chardonnay $20
This is a sort of classical take on California Chardonnay. The oak is rich but not the least bit overdone, the wine is textured, mouth-filling and the aromatics are opulent. The SLH Chardonnay is a blend of four different Hahn vineyard sites at different elevations, allowing for a range of ripeness and a great texture. Aromas of baked pear, beeswax and honey, and a rich textured palate of vanilla, chamomile and cinnamon apple.
2014 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir $20
Lushness, and ripe fruit rather than angularity and minerality are the hallmark of Burgundy varietals grown in California and this Pinot Noir is no different. Aromas of tobacco, cedar and ripe cherry accent this Pinot Noir from a warm 2014 vintage. The folks at Hahn age this wine ten months in mostly neutral and a bit of new French oak, and the result is a wine that really emphasizes fruit over barrel spice. Flavors of dusty blackberry and raspberry and a hint of turned earth highlight this ripe, medium bodied and very food friendly Pinot Noir.