Grapelive Latest: Pisoni Rules!

glkwgp09.jpgGary Pisoni Shows His New Releases

by Kerry Winslow

Every time I see Gary Pisoni I tell him how grateful I am to taste his wine and I make sure I mention that I believe, with out a bit of doubt in my mind, he is the greatest thing to happen to Monterey wine ever! I thank him for his passion and for making the Santa Lucia Highlands a household name for wine lovers the world over. As a native and a local, I am profoundly proud of my region and I regard Pisoni the man who put us on the map. Before Pisoni, there was Chalone, Morgan and Talbott all making nice and interesting wines, but there was mostly bulk wine that deserved no merit and that defined Monterey as a whole, that changed when Pisoni starting growing Pinot Noir on his family’s ranch, for which he took a huge gamble at the time. His risk paid off, and now his Pisoni Estate is almost certainly regarded as the best Pinot Noir vineyard in California and might even be on par with the likes of Romanee-Conti, La Tache and Richebourg, the top Grand Cru sites in Burgundy.

glgpgrapes.jpgGary loves to hear me sing his praise, though he is far to humble and seems more amused than anything, always telling me that he just did it because he loves it. His legend has grown beyond the scale, though he may be even bigger in real life, his joy is infectious, his intensity is inspiring, his kindness and heart are not mere mortal. Gary loves his family, he loves his wines, he loves his friends, he would give the shirt of his back for a stranger, and lives large, I mean really large! No question, he has a reputation as a wildman, sometimes deserved I am sure, but I know him as a quiet spoken supporting person that always has a joke, a smile and something nice to say about everyone. Honestly, Gary Pisoni will be remembered as much for his generous nature, humor and class as he will for his amazing grapes.

It is early September and harvest 2009 has started for certain varietals including Pinot Noir in some areas and Gary Pisoni brought some freshly picked grapes from his estate for us to taste, they are sweet, dark and beautifully flavored. So there you have it, your first review of the 2009 vintage, even before Beaujolais! Look for an exceptional Pisoni Estate vintage for 09, mostly likely to be released in two years to the day. As well as his grapes, Gary has brought his line up of wines to try, all new releases from the 2007 vintage, some of which I previewed in March and for which the slightly more famous wine critic than me, Robert Parker just published reviews of this month. Mr. Parker was as blown away as I was, and even though I put my reviews up first, I must say he gets much more attention, as the wine world hangs on his every word, and those words about Pisoni and his wines were in a word, awesome. Most all got mid to high nineties ratings from Parker (and me too!) with the Pisoni Estate Pinot grabbing 96 Points, along with his Lucia Syrah Susan’s Hill Pisoni Vineyard, scored by Parker.

glpisoniwines.jpgMy latest reviews of the Pisoni wines with echo my first impressions from March, though at that time I didn’t get to rate the 2007 Pisoni Estate Pinot though I gave it 96-97 recently when a tried it a month earlier at the family winemakers show in San Francisco. This time my notes recorded a full 97 Points, and I am convinced that it might be the finest vintage ever. So the Pisoni family does the Pisoni label, of which to date is just the Pisoni Estate Pinot, and the Lucia Vineyards label that has a Rose of Pinot Noir known as Lucy, a fine Chardonnay, two Pinots (A blended cuvee Santa Lucia Highlands, and the Garys’ Vineyard) and two Syrahs that are the big surprise, one is from the Pisoni Vineyard called Susan’s Hill and one from the Garys’ Vineyard. All of Gary’s wines are made by his talented son Jeff Pisoni who once trained at Peter Michael Winery and who is getting a lot of praise in his own right as a top winemaker. These wines are world class and rival any wine from the same grape any place in the world, I can say that with no reservation at all, with no hesitation at all and all with a straight face, these wine are that good. My local pride no know bounds when it comes to the Pisoni wines, and I am even more certain that they get better every vintage!
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Latest Pisoni Reviews
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luciachard.gif2007 Lucia Vineyards Chardonnay (Pisoni Vineyard) Santa Lucia Highlands.
Pisoni’s Chardonnay continues to shine, even though the press is all about their Pinot Noir, and the 2007 vintage is rich and textured with massive appeal and charm, much like Gary Pisoni himself. I wonder if this beautiful wine will ever get the merit it deserves? This Chard is right up there with the likes of Aubert, Talbott, Kistler and Peter Michael with pretty pear, white peach, and tropical fruits, liquid mineral, cream, fig, butterscotch and spicy vanilla. When it was first released it had a lovely lemon tart layer that seems to be fading now into the background, but everything else about this wine pure heaven. ($40-45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
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luciaslh07.gif2007 Lucia Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands.
This cuvee of Pisoni and Garys’ grapes is very ripe and lush with intense fruitiness and bold flavors, I had rated it slightly higher in my earlier tastings, but it seemed a touch over the top this time, even though it is hedonistic and totally a pleasure to drink now. This vintage has Plum jam, wildflowers, cherry liqueur, blackberry and tea spices all mixed with classic Pinot character as well. This wine continues to be a great value for a big in your face Pinot that has many fans. This wine is fun and lush and should be drunk while young. ($40 Est.) 90-91 Points, grapelive
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lucia07garyspn.gif2007 Lucia Vineyards Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
This wine just gets better each time I try it, this highly impressive Pinot Noir has depth and density that is mind blowing with sublime flavors and focus. Jeff Pisoni is becoming one of the best Pinot Noir winemakers in the state and this Lucia Garys’ is proof in the pudding. This remarkable vintage has rich dark berry, plum and black cherry fruit with bramble, briar and sweet spices coming on after you take in a nose full of violets, roses and lavender. The oak is subtle and pure French though it leaves a hint of smoke, vanilla and mocha goodness. You can and I’m sure will enjoy this beauty now, though it should gain lots with a few years in the cellar as there is potential perfection here! ($50-55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
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pisoni07.gif2007 Pisoni Vineyards Pinot Noir “Pisoni Vineyard” Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This nearly perfect wine is a stellar Pinot Noir that is my all time favorite Pinot and surpasses the 1993 Romanee-Conti “La Tache” I had been holding on to in my memories, and I hope I’m able to save a few bottles for 5 to 10 years to revisit, as I’m sure that it will develop even more greatness in the cellar. It is amazing when a wine blows away the hype, and this wine surely does that in spades. The nose is lovely with fresh wildflowers and rose oil with blackberry and cherry fruit. This vintage has intense flavors and wonderful balance with layers of silky fruit, spice, mineral and pure French oak smoke, vanilla and caramel that lingers on the finish.  ($65-75 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
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luciagaryssyrah07.gif2007 Lucia Vineyards Syrah “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
If you try one new wine this year, let it be a Lucia Syrah, it will change all your ideas about the grape and where it grows well! I was blown away last year with these wines, but this year everyone is blown away with these wines! The Lucia Garys’ Syrah is a mammoth wine with deep color and layers with bright peppery spice. The nose is still closed on this young wine, but the palate explodes with fruit with black plum, blueberry, cherry and mountain berries unfolding in the mouth. There is a meaty and bacon essence along with the thick texture very much like the wines of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone, the spiritual home of Syrah in France. This wine should just get better and more complex over the next few years. With question this is one of my favorite Syrah wines and a unreal value! ($40-42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
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luciasusans07.gif2007 Lucia Vineyards Syrah “Susan’s Hill, Pisoni Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
This young Syrah is very tight and fresh, but once it gets some air you know right away it is something very, very special with perfume and massive fruit. This wine is very much the Cote-Rotie type of Syrah from the Pisoni Estate with a touch more elegance and less pepper than the Garys’ with more refinement maybe and smoother in texture. That said this wine will really fill out and be a monster with some short-term cellar time and I look forward to seeing it develop, as I believe it has wonderful potential. The last two vintages were excellent, but this is something really special and Pisoni just might be even better known for Syrah than his Pinot! The mouth is full and rich with loads of black and blue fruits, cassis, licorice, cherry liqueur and bitter chocolate, hints of smoke, crushed rock, and vanilla. ($40-42 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

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