Tuesday, January 4, 2011

McIntyre Estate Vineyards provides a great blend of tradition and sustainability

There are many great wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands located in very diverse Montery County. John Steinbeck described the area in his renown novel “ East of Eden” "The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding…”

The Santa Lucia mountains rise from Monterey's County's fertile Salinas Valley on the west, separating it from the Pacific Ocean. The vines of this steep hillside district enjoy cooling ocean breeze and fog from Monterey Bay. This results the finest early varietally-labeled Pinots from the district. Slow, gentle ripening that is California's longest “hang time” creating exceptional intensity, complexity, and balance in the grapes.

The McIntyre estate vineyard is located in the central section of the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vineyard was originally planted by the McFarland family in 1973 and boasts some of the Highlands’ oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. In 1979 a Pinot Noir from the vineyard, under the “Stony Hill” label, is still regarded as one of best produced from the area.

Steve McIntyre

In March 1987, Steve McIntyre purchased the eighty acre property and put his years of experience to the test. Through three decades, the McIntyre family has been setting the standard for winegrowing on the Central Coast and in Monterey County. Steve McIntyre graduated with a Masters degree in Enology from CSU Fresno. He has planted and managed vineyards for numerous wineries including Galante, Smith & Hook, Mondavi, Joseph Phelps and Bonny Doon and has grown grapes for such prestigious wineries as Williams Selyem, Morgan, Artesa, Jordan, Bernardus, MacRostie, and Marilyn Remark to name a few.

Long before the “green” movement , Steve McIntyre helped “write the book” on sustainable winegrowing in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. This founding family has been farming in a responsible, sustainable manner long before such practices became the “in” thing to do.They grow grapes organically and biodynamically for several wineries and apply many of these techniques to their winery as well. They farm in a “sustainable system.” carefully taking into account everything that happens in and around the vineyard . Sustainability is a self correcting discipline that not only impacts the environment but society (their employees) and the bottom line as well. Prior to the 2009 harvest, McIntyre’s submit the copious documentation required on every aspect of its farming practices and face the independent auditor responsible for maintaining the strict new “sustainability” standards. Because of McIntyre’s two decades history of careful, conscientious stewardship of their Santa Lucia Highlands’ vineyard, they passed with flying colors. The McIntyre estate holds "certified sustainable" status from both the CCVT's SIP  program and the statewide CSWA.

Byron Kosuge

In 2004 , Steve brought in winemaker Byron Kosuge , a native Californian, born and raised in the Central Valley of California and the son of a UC Davis professor. Byron attended UC Davis, where he studied English Literature as well as Viticulture and Enology. He began his winemaking career in 1985 as a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist in Carneros at Saintsbury Winery. After 15 years at Saintsbury, he departed in 2001 to pursue other projects, including his own label, B. Kosuge Wines, as well as Miura Vineyards, Foghorn, and Kingston Family Vineyards in Chile. All of these projects focus on Pinot Noir. He has also served as consultant to several Napa and Sonoma- based wineries

Today the McIntyre Vineyard keeps their focus on producing high quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot and a very special bottling of Sparking wine as well. We had the opportunity to have a focus tasting with Cheryl Warner , McIntyre Sales Manager to get to know these wines intimately.

2008 Estate Chardonnay-Santa Lucia Highlands

Monterey County is known for its light and flavorful Chardonnays. The McIntyre 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Chardonnay was a nice break from very “oaky” Chardonnays that don’t allow the true essences of the varietal to be appreciated. The 2007 Vintage earned a 92 point score from Wine Enthusiast which increased our expectation of the 2008 Vintage. On the nose , this lovely Chardonnay gave us aromas of grapefruit and orange giving way to lively citrus notes and balanced acid on the palate with hints of toast and butter on the end with a long finish . With only a 375 case production, this lovely Chardonnay was light, refreshing and fruit forward showing the passion that went into making this true to the varietal wine.

We had the opportunity to attend a Pinot Noir focus tasting last year and tasted Steve McIntyre’s Pinot Noirs along with many of the other living legends that produce some of the best Pinot Noirs ion the world. We looked forward to exploring them in much closer detail.

2006 Mission Ranch Pinot Noir-Arroyo Seco

Arroyo Seco is located just east of the Southern boundary of the Santa Lucia Highlands and is very well known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. In the glass The 2006 Mission Ranch is quite deep ruby in color and full bodied On the nose, big but nor overwhelming aromas of Cherry and blackberry jump out . Other similarly dark fruit flavors, spice and smoke join with cherry on the palate with a silky smooth finish. This wine is a great example of what can be done with Pinot Noir in the hands of a veteran. This Mission Ranch Pinot Noir is a big boisterous Pinot Noir but can still be called light and pretty . Like most Pinot Noirs that pick up a signature for its terrior this one is no exception , with a spice note and dark fruit flavors that is a signature of the Santa Lucia highlands and Arroyo Seco. A 400 case production makes this Pinot Noir a real gem and should be enjoyed after decanting to allow all of its unique flavors and Aromas to open.

2007 McIntyre Estate Pinot Noir – Santa Lucia Highlands

Once again , our palates were salivating with anticipation when we opened this lovely 92 Point Wine from Wine Enthusiast. Steve used two clones of Pinot Noir sustainably grown from their estate vineyard located in the heart of the coveted Santa Lucia Highlands appellation . On the nose characteristic light cherry and raspberry notes flow into a palate of cola and red jammy fruit with spice and a long elegant finish. This wonderful Pinot Noir was only the second Estate Pinot Noir to date and is very special. So special in fact , we took a bottle of the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir into the world renown Palme D’ Or restaurant in the historical Biltmore Resort and Spa in Coral Gables Florida and shared it with the Wine Director / GM and Chef.

Steve McIntyre is a true legend and his wines reflect his passion for winemaking and growing. We look forward to visiting again soon as he is in the midst of planning a “green” winery and visitors' center for their estate vineyard. The new facility will reflect their decades-long commitment to sustainable winegrowing. In addition they plan to make conscientious use of the natural attributes of their estate, employing solar collectors and even wind power, taking advantage of those famously strong Highlands’ breezes off Monterey Bay.

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Elaine and Scott

Elaine and Scott
Elaine and Scott