Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as certainly there is a core group of wine lovers who are quite familiar with the AVA. However, without major hotels and restaurants in the region — and with just a handful of tasting rooms — the Santa Lucia Highlands flies under the radar of most wine lovers. And yet, the Santa Lucia Highlands is the only California Pinot Noir region to receive 90 points or higher for each of the last ten years on the Wine Spectator vintage chart. I’ve been fortunate to source fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands since 1997 and when I decided to start Clarice Wine Company there was no question that I wanted my grapes to come from this region.
I’ve been lucky enough to purchase Pinot Noir from the Garys’ Vineyard since 1999, its first year of production. Located near the middle of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, Garys’ Vineyard was planted in 1997 by Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni together with their families. The site planted entirely to the famed Pisoni selection of Pinot Noir, mostly on SO4 rootstock, with a small amount planted on 3309 rootstock. At Clarice Wine Company, I source fruit from both rootstocks with a small section at the top of the vineyard and another nearer the bottom. Garys’ Vineyard is widely known as one of California’s most prized sources of Pinot Noir grapes with over 125 wines from the vineyard rated 90 points or better by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
This special site was planted in 1998 and 1999 by the Franscioni family and named for Gary Francioni’s wife, Rosella. In 2001, they offered the first fruit from the vineyard to a small number of winemakers, which is when I started purchasing Rosella’s Pinot Noir. The Rosella’s Vineyard is located approximately one mile north of the Garys’ Vineyard, which places it closer to the Pacific Ocean and thus it is a bit cooler than its older sibling. For Clarice, I chose one acre of the Pommard Clone Pinot Noir and one acre of the Pisoni selection, both of which are planted on 5C rootstock. The Rosella’s Vineyard has achieved remarkable acclaim, with over 100 wines rated 90 points or higher from Wine Spectator bearing a Rosella’s Vineyard designation.