2022 August West, Pinot Noir, 20th Anniversary, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Monterey County.
The pretty and lush fruited 20th Anniversary SLH Pinot by August West and winemaker Ed Kurtzman (formerly of Roar) is a perfect celebration of his long standing relationship with the region and his talents with the grapes grown here with satiny layers of black cherry, plum, bramble berry and burnt orange fruits, briar spice, vanilla, sweet rose petal, loam and mint tea. This wine, August West’s dark ruby/garnet 2022 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir comes entirely from the Cortada Alta Vineyard, that is set high above the Salinas Valley on decomposed granite, ancient marine sediments and loam. The vines at Cortada Alta are way up between 1,200 and 1,700 feet in elevation, the highest in the region, which puts them above the fog on most summer days. This, as Ed says, is unusual for the Santa Lucia Highlands, as most of the appellation sits below the fog level and resulting wine is quite a bit fuller and more intense, with a bit more tannin than the typical SLH Pinot. In years like 2022 you can really feel the extra degree of richness, while the cool nights help retain fresh acidity, making for a very compelling Pinot Noir.

The August West wines, which are all hand crafted in small lots, are produced in San Francisco in their urban winery with a focus on Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands grapes with winemaker Ed Kurtzman having ties to both regions. Kurtzman, who got his start with Monterey’s Bernardus Winery under local legend Don Blackburn before moving over to Chalone to work with Michael Michaud getting tons of experience with grapes of the Monterey Bay durning the mid 1990s. After that, Kurtzman became a much in demand consulting winemaker for some top notch estates, like Testarossa, Fort Ross, Freeman, as noted above and the mentioned Roar, where Ed really excelled with the Santa Lucia Highland’s most prized vineyards. The wines made by Kurtzman, here at August West and the offerings he does for Mansfield-Dunne are very expressive and textural efforts, both the Chardonnays and Pinots, as seen here, are wines I highly recommend. For this 2022 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Kurtzman used 100% de-stemmed grapes and fermented in small open top bins, employing a cool maceration and primary fermentation, after which the SLH Pinot was aged exclusively in neutral French oak barriques, allowing for a nicely balanced profile and purity of flavors.
($39 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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