When driving down the 101 freeway, it would be easy to pass by the Santa Lucia Highlands before even noticing it. The overgrown sea of Monterey vineyards near the freeway are source to some of the most ubiquitous wine labels across the Country, but beyond view is one of the most exciting wine growing regions within California.
While the tourism of some other wine regions has created a culture oriented around being seen and status, this culture is alien to the growers of the Highlands as farming is the common language that unites the region.
Here, world-class vineyard managers are just as passionate about their lettuce fields as their vineyards, and this kind of humility is what has largely kept the region insulated from the kinds of over-production that engulfs the vineyards near the highway and throughout much of California.
Quality minded producers have taken note, and many of the top vineyards of the region have long waiting lists consisting of many ‘A-List’ wineries that likely will never have the opportunity to make wines from these coveted sources. Indeed, many of the top Pinot Noir houses in the state can largely thank their reputations to these vineyards as any great winemaker knows that great wine can only come from great fruit.
We are ecstatic to have helped build some of the most recognized vineyard sites within the Highlands over our 27-year history. It takes a great site to make a great vineyard, but it also takes a great vineyard management team to actively foster the life of a vine through the thousands of decisions before the grapes are harvested each vintage.
All of this attention has brought in new blood to the region, and there are some exciting new vineyards coming online. One of these is Fogstone Vineyard, a passion project cofounded by Gary Filizeti and Bret & Carol Sisney and financed by their success at Devcon construction. Being from the northern end of the Highlands, it was originally called Lucia Highlands Vineyard before we updated it to the slightly more descriptive Fogstone Vineyard after its foggy mornings and stony loam soils.
While Lucia Highlands and Fogstone may both be non-descript names, they both represent the place from which it comes. Being from the Santa Lucia Highlands, that is exactly what we want it to be as the vineyard exuberates the best qualities that we look for from any vineyard source, an undiluted passion to express a purity from which it came.
Partnering with the Filizeti and the Sisney’s is a natural fit for us since their project is based on quality, and each year their driving motivation is how to make better wine than the year before. While this may sound like an obvious aim from a farming perspective, this isn’t as common as you would think since there can be a greater economic incentive in producing a larger crop size (with correlating lower quality levels). They also don’t share the farming background of their neighbors, so have fresh eyes and always meet any suggestions from Director of Winemaking, Bill Brosseau, with enthusiasm (including methods at reducing yields which can be counterintuitive to some generational farmers).
Bill, who comes from a vineyard and farming background, has an intuitive and holistic understanding of winegrowing and winemaking as opposed to just the vineyard or production side. Filizeti and the Sisney’s are unique in that they actively engage with us on the production side and come in every year to taste their fruit out of the barrel so they can openly discuss how their approach to grape growing can better aid us in winemaking. This above-and-beyond approach is why we have moved to source 100% of the fruit from the vineyard and why each year parcels from Fogstone find their way into all of our wines. It serves as a common vein ranging from our top Jensen Reserve Society and Single Vineyard wines down to providing the acidity and structure for our Appellation and Cuvée Los Gatos wines.
While there have been some stand out vintages over the years, we generally think that all of our sites are getting better as the years go by. Each year we gain new insight on how to administer greatness out of the land and how to nurture the fruit through the cellar. Fogstone has been met with much fanfare with critics, just like its peers from the generational farmers in the region. This kind of recognition is something that would seem fantastical to the older generations of such a humble trade, but luckily it hasn’t spoiled the humility of these artisans tending the land since they know it only gets better from here.