9th Santa Lucia Highlands Gala tasting

 SLH2Photo by Edgar Solís

On May 16 Santa Lucia Highlands Artisans will be celebrating their 9th Gala tasting event at Mer Soleil Winery. Come and taste wines from forty premium wineries, they will be sharing heavenly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. For many of the boutique wineries participating, this is the only public tasting of the year. The event will take place in the scenic Mer Soleil Winery located on the eastern end of this coastal appellation of Monterey County.

In 1991, the Federal government designated the Santa Lucia Highlands (SHL) as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA). The grape growing history of this region goes back to the 1790s, with the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries. First commercial plantings started in 1973, with a second round of vineyard plantings in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, about fifty vineyard estates encompassed 6,100 acres of vines.

The vineyards of the SLH are planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, verging on the Salinas River Valley. The fog and breeze off nearby Monterey Bay channel southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a unique cool climate. The high altitude vineyard sites take full advantage of the morning sunshine before the chilled, afternoon maritime winds slow down the sugar production on the grapes, allowing a prolong, even ripening. The growing season is long, starting with early bud break and lack of fall rains. The grapes developed fully, lush in phenolic compounds, ripeness and flavors.

SLH member wineries expected to pour at this year’s Gala include: August West, Belle Glos, Bernardus, Black Kite, Boekenoogen, Cattleya, Estancia, Hahn Family Wines, Hawks View, Hope & Grace, J. Lohr Highlands Bench, Joyce, Kori, Kosta Browne, La Rochelle, Loring, Mansfield – Dunne, Manzoni, McFarland, McIntyre, Mer Soleil, Miner, Miura, Mooney, Morgan, Novy, Paraiso, Pelerin, Pessagno, Pisoni/ Lucia, Poppy, Prim, Puma Road, Roar, Sarah’s Vineyard, Saxon Brown, Scheid, Siduri, Tantara, Testarossa, Tondre, Tudor, and Wrath.

Alongside quality wines, enjoy local gastronomy with sensual bites from various of the region’s best chefs. Including Dyon Foster from Hahn, Todd Fisher from Tarpy’s, Tim Wood from Carmel Valley Ranch, Cal Stamenov from Bernardus Lodge, James Waller from the Monterey Plaza Hotel, and many more. Bid on the big format wine bottle silent auction, benefiting Rancho Cielo Youth Campus. Harmonizing the event, live music from the Mario Flores Sontet.

A “VIP SLH Experience” ticket is available. The ticket includes two pre-Gala seminars: “Artisan Cheese Summit” a discussion and tasting with local cheese craftsmen, and “Beyond Pinot” seminar with SLH winemakers presenting interesting varietals other than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. VIPs also get early admission to the main Gala tasting and auction. Get your tickets at Santa Lucia Highlands Gala.