Hahn, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Pinot Noir, 2019 | California, USA

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Pinot Noir | August 30, 2021

The Santa Lucia Highlands rests on the east-facing terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range to the south of windy Monterey Bay on California’s central coast. Spanish missionaries and conquistadors planted the first vines here in the 1790s, but for the next two centuries, locals focused more on vegetable farming than on viticulture. But, thanks to a small pioneering group of farming families (Nicky Hahn at Hahn Estate, Rich and Claudia Smith at Paraiso, the McFarland family at Sleepy Hollow and Phil Johnson at La Estancia), the region’s winegrowing potential was truly discovered in the 1970s. Over the next 20 years, vintners from other regions joined local ranching and farming families like the Pisonis, Franscionis, Manzonis, and Boekenoogens to develop that potential into the renowned winegrowing region it is today.

In 1991, the federal government approved the Santa Lucia Highlands as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA). Today, the area includes 6,400 acres of vineyards, predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The appellation offers the unique combination of abundant sunshine and a cool climate. One of the world’s biggest submarine canyons (appropriately nicknamed “The Blue Grand Canyon”) lies just offshore at the entrance of Monterey Bay. This canyon’s 300 cubic miles of cold, deep-sea water exerts a powerful influence on the Monterey Bay weather, bringing fog and maritime winds that funnel into the winegrowing areas nearly every day, at nearly the same time. Average maximum daily winds of 10-15 miles per hour and gusts up to 25 miles per hour change the structure of the grape skins, which results in higher phenolics, and ultimately deeper flavor in the grapes. Along with cooling temperatures blowing in from the Monterey Bay, the wind also stops photosynthesis, giving the Santa Lucia Highlands a shorter daily growth and physiological development in the vines, and a longer growing season in total than most cool-climate growing regions. Growers and winemakers in the region wait for acids in the grapes to drop and enjoy a slow, even ripening towards harvest without the threat of fall rains thanks to the arid climate. The result: rich, silky and vibrant wines which are delicious at release, and able to go the distance in the cellar.

Hahn Estate Family Wines’ founders Nicky and Gaby Hahn first came to the Santa Lucia Highlands in the late ‘70s, and the Swiss-born couple quickly recognized the region’s potential to produce exceptional wines. The winery owns and farms 650 acres of estate vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The family also owns an additional 750 acres of prime vineyards in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA.

The Hahns released their first wine from SLH in 1980 and today, now run by second-generation vintner Philip Hahn, they own about 10% of the total acreage planted in the appellation. Hahn’s estate vineyards offer a diverse selection of terroir for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other cool climate grape varietals.

Hahn, Pinot Noir, 2019

Origin: Santa Lucia Highlands, California, USA
Varietals: Pinot Noir
Sustainability: certified sustainable practices
Suggested Retail Price: $30.00
ABV: 14.5%

Red ruby in the glass, this wine shows aromas of raspberry, cherry and blackberry spiced up with pepper and a hint of earthiness. The palate is rich, with refined tannins, juicy acidity and flavors of wild strawberries, cherry, plum and baking spice all offering a display of balance and impeccable integration.

Suggested food pairings: charcuterie, lamb, steak, venison, cassoulet, duck with olives, coq au vin, glazed ham, roast turkey, Brie and similar creamy cheeses and milder blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola dolce.

> For more information, visit the Hahn Winery official website