The Santa Lucia Highlands Report will be published in August, 2017.
The Santa Lucia Highlands is a north-south running valley located to the south of Monterey Bay. It lies on the west side of the valley, on east facing slopes that rise 300 feet or more above the valley floor.
The climate is driven by Monterey Bay, which is located just north of the AVA. In general, the farther south a vineyard lies, the warmer it is, as the morning fog rolls back earlier in the day. This results in the southern vineyards receiving more hours of sunlight and higher daytime temperatures. However, despite lower temperatures and less daylight hours during the day, the northern vineyards generally see bud break earlier, so harvest dates aren’t as staggered as you would think. Nevertheless, this is an undeniably cool region, with daytime highs topping out in the 60s and low 70s, and harvest dates going late into October and early November.
Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay are the gems here, with the Pinot Noirs showing a more fruit forward, supple style when compared to the Santa Barbara County releases. While there’s not many Syrahs from the Santa Lucia Highlands, they possess terrific cool-climate, singular characters that are well worth seeking out.
This report will focus primarily on the 2015s, which is a tiny crop (the entire Central Coast had yields decimated due to poor weather in the spring) of more lively, elegant wines. I was able to taste a handful of 2016s as well, and this vintage looks to have produced bigger, richer wines.