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The Evolution of Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Industry

Large producers like Gallo bought most of the grapes during the 1960s and 1970s. However, there were some early, quality minded producers; most notably, Robert Talbott. Talbott planted Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in 1972 and River Ranch Road Vineyard in 1989.

Gary Pisoni planted Pisoni Vineyard in 1982. He initially focused on Bordeaux varietals but also made some Pinot Noir. Pisoni is currently much better-known for the latter.

Gary Franscioni planted the 50 acre Rosella’s Vineyard in 1996. Both Garys are third generation farmers from the Salinas Valley and are good friends. They combined forces in 1995 to plant Garys’ Vineyard. Over 10 wineries buy the sought-after grapes from Pisoni’s and Franscioni’s three properties.

Nicolaus Hahn of Hahn Estates was an influential proponent of AVA recognition. Established in 1992, it encompasses 22,000 acres and currently is planted with 2,300 acres of vineyards. 2000 and 2001 were particularly good years for the AVA.

It now appears that Burgundy and Rhone grapes are better suited to the Santa Lucia Highlands than Bordeaux varietals. Bordeaux varietals can be difficult to grow because of the incessant, coastal winds. This is a microcosm of the trial and error situation that has characterized much of Monterey County since the 1960s.

> Santa Lucia Highlands Wineries

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