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9 Jazzy California Pinot Noirs
New reviews from the strong 2013 vintage in Santa Lucia HighlandsThe Hahn family makes impressive Pinot Noirs under the Hahn, SLH and Lucienne labels.
Posted: October 12, 2015
Tasting Highlights bring the best wines from our editors’ most recent tastings to WineSpectator.com members.
Santa Lucia Highlands may be the best appellation you’ve never heard of. It’s sitting high in the saddle as growers and an increasing number of outside vintners dial in on the region’s best grapes. Pinot has the early lead but Syrah is also in the hunt; the terroir suits both grapes.
With Pinot, the region offers rich, supple wines backed by lively acidity, such as a tantalizing 2013 from one of its early pioneers: The Hahn family’s $30 SLH bowled us over for its concentration and depth, and is widely available. The family started growing grapes in Santa Lucia in the 1970s. They now own four vineyards spanning 650 acres on the hillside. In 2007, they launched Lucienne, focusing on single-vineyard Pinots. All three estate wines excelled in 2013.
Bernardus has been stepping up its game with Pinot as well. Based in Carmel Valley to the west, the winery produced a range of expressive wines using grapes from top growers in Santa Lucia. The Pisoni and Garys’ bottlings reveal the structure and ripeness of the warm vintage. Monterey native Dean De Korth guided the grapes to bottle.
Jeff Gaffner hit it big at Ram’s Gate, and here he makes a triumphant return with Saxon Brown. The rich berry flavors and mouthwatering finish show he has a handle on this up-and-coming region.
LUCIENNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Doctor's Vineyard 2013Score: 93 | $50
Exhibits a rich, juicy core of blackberry, wild berry and pomegranate, with spicy floral scents that are expansive on the palate. Ends with a long, intricate aftertaste that reverberates with flavor. Drink now through 2022. 602 cases made.—J.L.
BERNARDUS Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard 2013Score: 92 | $65
Offering fresh, zesty aromas of raspberry and wild berry, this is tight and well-focused, with firm, gripping tannins amid a rich, elegant core of spicy fruit. Drink now through 2022. 165 cases made.—J.L.
BERNARDUS Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Pisoni Vineyard 2013Score: 92 | $70
Well done in an ultrarich, expressive style, with layers of blackberry, raspberry, pomegranate and plum. Deep, persistent and elegant, unfolding on the palate. Drink now through 2022. 449 cases made.—J.L.
HAHN Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands SLH 2013 Score: 92 | $30
Impressive, showing density, concentration, depth and persistence, with layers of blackberry, mocha, cedar, spice and berry pie. Finishes with a strong presence. Drink now through 2021. 15,000 cases made.—J.L.
LUCIENNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Smith Vineyard 2013Score: 92 | $50
Effusively fruity, rich and focused, with blackberry, wild berry and raspberry flavors, showing plum and cedary oak nuances at the edges. Delivers an impressive display of assertive, persistent flavors. For fans of more expressive Pinots. Drink now through 2022. 1,224 cases made.—J.L.
BERNARDUS Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Soberanes Vineyard 2013 Score: 91 | $55
A wine of substance, depth, richness and structure, with chalky, minerally tannins providing a nice framework for the taut red berry flavors. Shows touches of anise and red licorice. Ends clean. Drink now through 2021. 451 cases made.—J.L.
LUCIENNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Lone Oak Vineyard 2013Score: 91 | $50
Very ripe, with smoky oak nuances and a cooked berry edge to the flavors, showing a mix of mocha, black cherry, wild berry and spicy wood notes. The tannins have nice traction. Drink now through 2021. 598 cases made.—J.L.
BERNARDUS Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Sierra Mar Vineyard 2013 Score: 90 | $55
Compact and well-built, with a tasty, if trim, offering of plum and cherry flavors that are ripe and pleasing. Tails off a bit on the finish, where the tannins take on a gravelly edge. Drink now through 2021. 451 cases made.—J.L.
SAXON BROWN Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard 2013 Score: 90 | $68
Offers rich flavors of blueberry and raspberry, shaded by spicy notes of dried herb and cedary oak, accented by a touch of gravel. Ends clean and mouthwatering, delivering a delicate aftertaste. Drink now through 2021. 226 cases made.—J.L.
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