One of the most exciting Pinot Noir appellations in the world, this slender hillside growing area extends roughly 18 miles northwest to southeast in Monterey County. Cooled by wind from the Pacific ocean just a mountain chain to the west and gaining ripening sun from its elevated exposures, the Santa Lucia Highlands is home to some of the most profound Pinots now being made. La Rochelle works with a number of vineyards spanning the entire length of the appellation. Each wine we produce has its own special site-driven character. They all share, however, the passion of the people who farm them.
Owned by boyhood friends, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, this acclaimed vineyard was planted to the Pisoni clone in 1997. Comprised of 50 acres, 42 planted to Pinot Noir, Garys’ sits at 300 feet above sea level and rises at a 10% grade to 500 feet. This vineyard is fairly densely planted (6’ x 8’ and 5’ x 8’) and is trellised in the Vertical Shoot Position to maximize ripeness and sunlight on its open canopy. Planted in a north-south configuration, Arroyo Seco sandy loam is the predominant soil type. La Rochelle Winery purchased fruit from this site from 2003-2005.
Located on Sanchez Road, this vineyard is the source of Pommard clone Pinot Noir for our Sparkling wine and Rosé. We bring in 4-5 tons of fruit each year; the free-run juice goes into a Blanc de Noir and the press fraction is used to make the base for a bone-dry Rosé.
Paraiso Vineyard is owned by Rich Smith, one of the pioneer wine growers in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, the Paraiso Vineyard is the most southerly-located vineyard in the appellation from which we source fruit. Comprised of seven blocks of Pinot Noir, covering nearly 80 acres and planted to the Martini and several Dijon clones, this site sits 119 miles south of the Winery. Paraiso Vineyard, which was planted in 1973 on decomposed granite and Arroyo Seco loam, one of the predominant soil type in SLH, uses Vertical Shoot Position and California sprawl trellising. Yields vary by block but average about four tons per acre. Situated at more than 500 feet above sea level, this site receives plenty of sunshine during the day before cool ocean breezes drop temperatures later in the day.
One of the most desirable vineyard designates, Rosella’s Vineyard is owned by Gary Franscioni, one of the partners in Garys’ Vineyard and Soberanes Vineyard. This 50-acre site is planted to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Starting in 2010, we have been harvesting about 2 tons of Dijon 76 clone Chardonnay as part of our “Grand Cru Collection” of wines.
Also referred to as the Smith-Lindley vineyard, Sarmento is comprised of 300 acres of Pinot Noir and 60 of Chardonnay and is located 660 feet above the Salinas Valley floor. Co-owned by Rich Smith and Butch Lindley, Sarmento is 5 miles north of Paraiso Vineyard and 114 miles south of the Winery in Livermore. Composed of granitic loam soils and home to both the Pommard clone and Dijon clones such as 667 (both of which are part of our Sarmento Vineyard offering) this site offers stunning view of the much of Valley floor all the way east to the Chalone appellation. Because of their elevation, vineyards such as Sarmento receive plenty of late-morning sunlight, being above the fog-line, and are then cooled significantly in the evening by the ocean breezes that crest the Santa Lucia range. Planted in 2000, this young vineyard is just now beginning to show the quality of fruit it is capable of producing. Trellised in the Vertical Shoot Position mode and averaging yields of about 4 tons per acre, this vineyard’s fruit is made into a Pinot Noir made exclusively for our Pinot Noir Program wine club.
This 450-acre hillside vineyard has been part of La Rochelle’s portfolio for several years. Managed by Sam Balderas (who was a winemaker at Mirassou Vineyards) and owned by the Talbott family, we have gotten consistently beautiful fruit from one of the more northerly-located vineyards in the appellation. Block A, planted to the Martini clone, is located at the upper edge of the vineyard 448 feet above sea level, 108 miles south of the Winery. Block A, like Garys’ Vineyard, is planted on Arroyo Seco gravelly loam soil, which allows for excellent root penetration and enables vines to pick up subsoil minerals that increase flavor complexity. One of the older sites in our portfolio, Sleepy Hollow was planted on its own roots more than 30 years ago.
Named for a gentleman who received a Mexican land grant of over 8,900 acres of Monterey County land in exchange for a “loan of 40 horses, 50 head of cattle, 4 oxen and some sheep,” this vineyard was planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah by the Franscioni/Pisoni partnership in 2007. These world-class growers and wine-producers planted Pisoni clone Pinot Noir on an alluvial fan adjacent to Garys’ Vineyard; La Rochelle receives about 2 tons of fruit. Our first vintage of Soberanes fruit was 2010. This wine is part of our “Reserve Collection.”
A couple of miles further north and very close to Garys’ and Rosella’s vineyards, is another new site in 2009: Tondre Grapefield. Managed by Joe Allarid, this site’s reputation for producing top-quality fruit is growing
White Sage Vineyard
The first vintage of fruit from White Sage Vineyard, owned by sixth generation Mirassou family-member— Mark Mirassou— came into the winery in 2009. Mark’s vineyard is planted exclusively to Pinot Noir and is located just south of Hahn winery on River road just south of the center of the appellation. Dramatically narrow and tucked into a small valley cleaving the lower hillsides of the Highlands, White Sage Vineyard provided Dijon and classic clones to us.