Beloved by so many, delicate, delectable Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes to grow yet when done with grace, care, and skill can produce luscious, lovely goodness. The Bourgogne variety has taken a liking to the terroir of California, producing juicy, earthy, floral, and fruity wines from Santa Barbara to Mendocino, and everywhere in between. This is thanks in part to the cooling influence the Pacific Ocean has on the delicate fruit, bringing fog-filled evenings and mornings through the vines, cooling them from the heat of the day, followed by ocean breezes ensuring grapes are kept healthy and free of disease, coupled with the glorious California sunshine that warms and ripens fruit slowly throughout the long growing season. The California cheese advertisement mentioning the happy cows found throughout the state can easily apply to the grapes as well because if they can talk they would surely share their California home produces very happy grapes. Lucky for us, those grapes become delicious wines.
From one of those Pacific-influenced regions, inland from the Monterey Bay in California’s Central Coast lies Santa Lucia Highlands. Sitting at elevations ranging from 50-1650 feet above sea level, on the slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains in Monterey County, Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH for short) became an AVA in 1991, but the Hahn family recognized the potential of the region decades before joining this region of farming and community early, recognizing the opportunity and quality that existed there early on. In 2003, after years of producing delicious wines, they added a gem that has helped take their approachable wines to the next level, Winemaker Paul Clifton. Today Hahn crafts varietally correct wines with character fitting a range of budgets, from their affordable Hahn California and Appellation tier wines to their SLH series that shines showcasing the terroir, to their delicate, elegant premium Luciene single-vineyard wines.
Hahn SLH wines showcase the four vineyards of the Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands estate, Lone Oak, Smith, Doctor’s & Hook. Each year only a few barrels from each vineyard go into the SLH blend with the goal to produce not only a delicious, food-friendly wine with balance but also one with distinction. The hope is that when you taste the Hahn SLH Pinot Noir ($30) you easily recognize not only the variety, but also the place, as the wines consistently have a richness from the fruit, but also a mineral-intensity from the soils of the land. Aromatic and inviting, Hahn SLH Pinot Noir leads with floral aromas of violets and cherry blossom, followed by flavors of red and blackberry, cherry, toasted spice, and vanilla, with a clean, clear note of crushed stone and woody herb.