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2018 Harvest in Santa Lucia Highlands

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A Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard--so close to the Pacific Ocean, yet sheltered from it A Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard--so close to the Pacific Ocean, yet sheltered from it

TASTE News Service, October 17, 2018 — The 2018 wine grape harvest in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, which started in early September, is nearing its end.

SLH inset map Picmonkey

Vintners waiting on the last of the grapes to wrap up an idyllic harvest and very promising vintage. Some of California’s finest growers and vintners call the Santa Lucia Highlands home: 3,400 acres of Pinot Noir and 2,200 acres of Chardonnay are planted in the western Santa Lucia mountain benchlands of Monterey County’s Salinas Valley.

“The cool spring delayed phenolic development and on average growers in the Santa Lucia Highlands were about one to two weeks behind what we would call normal. Overall, the 2018 growing season was mild and unmarked by extremes,” grower Steve McIntyre of McIntyre Vineyards pointed out.

An easy, mild and uneventful growing season rolled into harvest in the same manner, with mild temperatures, overnight fog and afternoon winds, providing the extra hang-time desired for optimum phenolics and naturally balanced acids the region typically enjoys.

“The 2018 Harvest season kicked off with near perfect weather and fruit conditions. Sun kissed by day with low temperatures and moist, cool fog in the evening and early mornings. Optimum hang-time and wine chemistry. It’s a banner year for the Santa Lucia Highlands,” Bill Brousseau, Testarossa winemaker added.

An early October weather system brought one-third to one-half an inch of rain throughout the region on October 3rd and had no effect on quality or harvest progress.

“We pulled leaves out of the fruit zone and our usual afternoon winds dried out the vineyards quickly,” said grower Gary Franscioni of Rosella’s, Sierra Mar, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards, and president of the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Board of Directors. Franscioni, with his wife and sons, also produces Roar Wines. “The quality of the fruit coming in is just fantastic and everything is in balance.”

bill brosseau winemaker Testarossa PocmonkeyTestarossa's Bill Brosseau

“After several vintages dealing with droughts, and hot temperatures in the late seasons, 2018 is more similar to what we were used to: slower ripening with beautiful, moderately warm weather throughout August and September. This year we are picking, on average, two to three weeks later than in recent years. This added hang time is providing us with gently ripened grapes showing excellent and intense fruit flavors. It could be a blockbuster,” Dean DeKorth, Bernardus winemaker said.

Vintners are already very enthusiastic about the quality of the 2018 vintage, crediting the mild and long season for the natural balance and overall high quality they’re seeing in the fruit. Yields are reported from normal to about five percent above average.

“This crop looks to be average to slightly above average and the quality is excellent,” McIntyre said.

“As far as the crop size, I would say this is as close to normal as we have been since 2014. No significant heat events coupled with marine layer and cool nights has helped the hang time and flavor development. The long bloom period produced an interesting mix within every bunch with some hens and chicks, bringing a great blend of complexity, color and flavor that is going to add up to a great vintage for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Santa Lucia Highlands,” Jason Smith, president of Smith Family Wines said.

Growers expect the last of the grapes, mostly Syrah, to come in by the end of October.

About the Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the crown jewels of California viticulture, growing and producing some of the state’s best cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The appellation encompasses 6,400 acres of vineyards, planted on the elevated, windy terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range in close proximity to nearby Monterey Bay. The region’s unique wine growing character was recognized with official A.V.A. status in 1991. With generations of family farming, innovation and sustainability as our legacy, our growers and vineyards have earned their place among the world’s most prestigious names for appellation and single-vineyard cool-climate varieties.

Formed in 2005, the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans is a non-profit association of vineyards and wineries that grow grapes in the appellation or use the appellation’s fruit to craft their fine wines. The group’s online home is SantaLuciaHighlands.com

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