by Kerry Winslow, grapelive
This last week has been a blur, a real frenzy of wine and vineyards to taste and try. But, it really is the people that matter most and the friendships that have developed that move me. I have been very lucky in the last week to have seen some of the kindest and talented people based here in the Monterey Bay area, and of course try their wonderful wines and or see their amazing vineyards. My latest trek took me out to the Garys’ , Rosella’s and Pisoni Vineyards, all in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and though I’ve been out to Pisoni before, I had never been to Rosella’s and Garys’ Vineyards, so it was with a lot of excitement I went touring out there with. Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni, long time friends are partners in the Garys’ Vineyard and it is mostly planted to “Pisoni clone” Pinot Noir, and this is what it is most famous for. That said they have really turned a lot heads with their Syrah from this site and I can tell you it is fantastic, especially the 2006 sample I was lucky enough to get my hands and palate on.
Franscioni has his own vineyard too, this the Rosella’s Vineyard named after Gary’s wife Rosella, and this site is planted to Pinot Noir, Syrah & Chardonnay, all of which are top flight grapes and make wine to drool over. Rosella’s Vineyard is the coolest of the vineyards and usually picked last, and has shown to be a perfect place for well-developed Chardonnay and dark and floral Pinot Noirs. Though in recent years the Pinots have got much richer and the Syrahs are doing extremely well here too. The long hang time and multitude of clones give lots of complexity and depth as the vines age here.
The main partnership vineyard, the Garys’ is regarded as Grand Cru class and it is very prized among the select winemakers that can get any fruit here. Franscioni and Pisoni have about 20 or so clients that take grapes, all must be friends, make good (great) wine, and of course pay on time! It is almost a license to print money, as almost every Pinot made from Garys’ fruit is a sell out! Honestly, can you think of a bad Garys’ Pinot Noir? Not easy, and I recently went crazy for the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard and remarked it may be the best yet from them, and I can say that Franscioni’s own label Roar, now made by Ed Kurtzman, is getting even better, especially these 2006 vintages. 2006 was a tough year and for the most part the Pinot Noirs have been lighter in color and in some cases in flavors, but not from these guys’ vineyards! Both the Roar (Gary Franscioni) and the Lucia (Pisoni Family) are intensely rich and darkly colored wines with well developed aromatics and lush textures. Then there is the Syrahs, and they are super impressive with purple/black color and loads of black fruit, violets and white pepper with great length and long finishes. Oh, and I should also mention, just in case you don’t take my word on this, Robert Parker rated the Garys’ and Susan’s Hill (Pisoni Vineyard) Syrah’s between 93 and 95 Points for the new 2006 releases! These are due out in late September or October 2008, so get on both the Lucia and Roar websites and sign up to receive their offers, and get your pre-release order in as soon as possible.
Then there is the magic place, the vineyard that made Monterey known for world class Pinot Noir and really put us on the map, I’m talking about the Pisoni Vineyard. We locally cannot argue about that, Gary Pisoni deserves all his success and fame, and I will always tell him so, every time I see him! This place is our Romanee-Conti, a sacred place, and a place where Monterey’s fortunes turned around. Pisoni Vineyard has to be the most famous if not the most sublime site in California for powerful and mind blowing Pinot Noir. It took Gary Pisoni awhile to showcase his vision, and he had many doubters, but he perused his dream and won everyone over in the end with these grapes. His son Jeff makes their own wines under the Pisoni and Lucia labels, and his talents are now also well known and highly respected. Mark Pisoni the other son, wears many hats, he gets to run all the vineyards and do most of the business and public relations work, including helping Gary Franscioni over at Garys’ and Rosella’s. Now, getting back to my point earlier, it is all about the people, these very hard working and in demand people. They deserve all their successes and many more too, as they are some of the nicest and kindest people you’ll ever meet, and not just in the wine business either, I mean it, these are special souls with huge hearts. It makes drinking their wine all that much more special. Pisoni’s 2006 Estate Pinot is coming out this fall too, and look for it to be one of the best yet, but make sure you get your favorite wine merchant to line some up early or at least get your name on the Pisoni list. I was lucky and got a sneak peak at a few versions and came away very, very impressed. The 2006 Roar Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard was awesome with lovely fruit and sweet smoky goodness, and is all ready a star, drinking great now and even though Gary Franscioni likes them really young himself, it should get even better with a year or so in bottle and age well for 5-7 years. These guys are good!
Gary Franscioni’s Roar wines are now made by the talented Ed Kurtzman, who is taking over from Adam Lee (Siduri), and he is really taking these wonderful wines to the next level and allowing the vineyard sites to really show themselves. This is my favorite version of this wine so far. This unfiltered and rich Pinot Noir has a more cloudy appearance, with a pretty ruby and garnet hue. The fruit is fresh and leans on raspberry, dark cherry and plum, though there is some red currant and cranberry as well. This wine has great depth and “Pisoni” style structure and boldness with lush textures and complexity. There is a smoky sweet vanilla oak note, but it fits perfectly and this is a very focused and balanced wine that has it all right from nose to finish. This Pinot has great fruit, good savory spices, nice florals and lavish oak shadings and will be released this fall! Kudos to Gary and Ed for making a great wine even better and for letting this magical vineyard show itself and again showcase its Grand Cru statis. ($55-65 Est.)
95 Points, grapelive (by Kerry Winslow)
The Franscioni and Pisoni families have really done it again, after creating world class Pinot fruit and getting the Santa Lucia Highlands regarded as a great Pinot Noir region, they now have done the same with Syrah! This Lucia Syrah is without a bit of doubt has reached greatness and Jeff Pisoni must certainly be very proud with this amazing wine. This Syrah from Garys’ Vineyard is dark purple with lovely violets and wild flowers on the nose with white pepper and lavender notes up front and on the palate. There is power and elegance in this wine that reminds me of the Northern Rhone and with the complex flavors and full body make it a super Syrah that will be great on release and will age beautifully for 5-8 years. The fruit is mostly black in nature with mountain berries, plum and cassis filling the mouth, with some tangy blueberry, mocha, currant, cherry liqueur, smoky game and subtle wood notes. The finish still shows tannins and acidity, giving strength and freshness to the fruit, but remains long and with some creamy vanilla that lingers. This is a very young wine, though it is easy to love now, and should be released in late September. ($40-45 Est.)
94 Points, grapelive (by Kerry Winslow)