Perched high above the Salinas Valley, the Santa Lucia Highlands promises to become a crown jewel of California viticulture. The AVA has developed a reputation for producing wines with intense fruit character, combined with a graceful, often mineral-laden acidic backbone. Chardonnay is the region’s sparkling gem, representing over half of its production, although Pinot Noir is quickly establishing its own value. The AVA is blessed with quality-minded wineries and vineyards, combined with strong ties to some of the Golden State’s most prolific producers and distributors. Enjoying one of California’s longest growing seasons, vineyard coverage has grown to over 2,300 acres. This north-south oriented alluvial terrace benefits from well-drained granitic soils and shelter from the Pacific Ocean by the Santa Lucia Mountains. Yet the region benefits from cool morning fog and afternoon breezes, drawn into the Salinas Valley from Monterey Bay. The AVA officially starts a mere 40 feet above the valley floor, but vineyards can be found at elevations as high as 1,200 feet, where fog burns off much earlier than below. These higher altitude vineyards have the advantage of more direct sunshine. Coupled with the natural southeastern exposure of these vineyards, the Santa Lucia Highlands have a terroir unique for Monterey.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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