Gary Pisoni is an icon in California wine lore. The story of how he “imported” bud cuttings from the world-famous La Tâche Vineyard in Burgundy is legendary. Pisoni was a major player in establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands in California’s Central Coast as a prominent grape growing region for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
After obtaining their degrees at UC Davis, sons Jeff and Mark followed in their father’s footsteps, with Jeff as the winemaker and Mark managing the vineyards and vegetable farms for the Pisoni Family.
Pisoni Pinot Noir quickly grabbed the attention of wine critics and Pinot Noir aficionados all over world and became one of the hallmark Pinots produced in California. Most of the cherished (and very expensive) Pisoni fruit goes to a few select wineries such as Roar, Miura, Patz & Hall, and Siduri, to name a few.
LUCIA, The “Sister” Label
Due to the scarcity and demand for the Pisoni Pinot Noir, Gary and the family decided to start a sister label and called it LUCIA. Lucia was created to produce affordable, high quality wines that would be more available and affordable for wine lovers to enjoy on a regular basis. Starting in the early 2000s, Lucia came on the scene providing Pinotphiles with affordable, quality wines. In the following years Chardonnay and Syrah were added to the Lucia portfolio.
I remember when I first met these two “young turks”, Jeff and Mark, and tasted their early releases of the Lucia wines. They were friendly, very polite, almost bashful, but their love and passion for growing and crafting great wines was immediately apparent, as was their respect and reverance for the foundation their father had established. Make no mistake about, dad still calls the shots, but Jeff and Mark implement his plan with focused devotion into producing the best wines worthy of the Pisoni name.
Jeff Pisoni has developed into a prolific winemaker. Having tasted every vintage since he has taken over the majority of winemaking duties, I can honetly say that he has developed into a true artisan, and talented winemaker in his own right. The wines he is making seem to get better with each vintage.
Jeff is not only making the wines for the family labels, but also consults for a few small producers.
Mark Pisoni grew up among the family vineyards and farms in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The dirt from the Santa Lucia Highlands is under his fingernails and in his blood. Mark received a degree from UC Davis in Agriculture where he met his wife Quinn, who also specialized in Agricultural Sciences. Mark stays behind the scenes for the most part, but the work he does in managing the vineyards is crucial to the ongoing success of the Pisoni and Lucia vineyards and labels.
New Releases of 2008 LUCIA
Robert Parker, Jr. in the latest issue of the Wine Advocate (Issue 190 August 2010) reviewed the new Lucia lineup. Below are Parker’s reviews.
Lucia 2008 Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands
“The 2008 Chardonnay (which sees 80% new oak and goes through full malolactic) comes from the Pisoni Vineyard. Much of this is made from the old Wente clone of Chardonnay, with some from newer clones. Notes of peach blossom, citrus oil, white currant, honeysuckle, and orange jump from the glass of this fruit-laden, full-bodied style of Chardonnay, with the oak well-concealed. (About 50% new French oak is used.) The wine has a layered texture, good acidity, and striking minerality. Drink it over the next 3-5 years.” 93 ($40)
Lucia 2008 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
“The 2008 Pinot Noir (which utilizes about 40% new oak) comes from above the Pisoni and Garys’ Vineyards, two of the top sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wine has a perfumed bouquet of blue, red, and black fruits along with some forest floor, underbrush, and subtle background oak. Velvety textured, deep, full-bodied flavors cascade over the palate with a sweetness and purity that are admirable. About 10-15% stems were used in the fermentation, but they don’t show in the wine, although I am sure the nicely integrated, tannic structure of the wine is a result of them. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.” 93 ($40)
Lucia 2008 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sold Out)
“The gorgeous 2008 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard (with about 25% whole clusters and a slightly increased use of new French oak – 50%) is great stuff. Dense ruby/purple-tinged with notes of plums, black cherry, black raspberry, and currant, with hints of graphite and subtle smoke, the wine is complex, fleshy, and exuberantly California in style, but with unmistakable Pinot Noir authenticity – richer, denser, and more velvety textured than almost any Burgundy that readers are likely to run across. With its long, fruit-filled, layered finish, the overall impression is one of voluptuousness and seduction. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.” 96
Lucia 2008 Syrah Pisoni Vineyard “Susan’s Hill”
Santa Lucia Highlands
“From the high elevation and poor soils of the Pisoni Vineyard, the 2008 Syrah Susan’s Hill was fermented with 25% stems, and aged in all French oak, of which 30% was new. Among the most backward of the 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrahs I tasted, it exhibits noble sweetness in its charcoal-infused black currant and blackberry fruit. Notions of grilled meats, smoke, black tea, and flowers also emerge from this wine of exceptional intensity as well as full-bodied power. This harmonious, impressively endowed Syrah will benefit from another 1-2 years of bottle age, and should drink well over the following decade.” 94+ ($45)
Lucia 2008 Syrah Garys Vineyard
Santa Lucia Highlands
“Made in a similar style, but even richer, is the 2008 Syrah Garys’ Vineyard. Approximately 35% whole clusters were used in this wine’s upbringing as well as 35% new oak. A terrific Syrah from this cool climate region, it boasts a dense purple color along with a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, alcohol, and wood. Hints of ink, graphite, blackberries, blueberries, and forest floor characteristics are found in this full-bodied, rich, but never overwrought or too heavy beauty. Enjoy it over the next decade.” 95 ($45)
To order the Lucia wines, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject to availability.
Santa Lucia Highalnds Maps