Monterey County is one of the most scenic regions in Southern California. Spanning roughly 90 miles, this is an all-important wine region stretching from Monterey Bay south to the edge of San Luis Obispo County. Vineyards here are flanked by the Galiban Mountains to the east, with the gorgeous Santa Lucia Mountains along the Pacific encompassing the western edge.
Nicky Hahn is a bit of rock-star here. It was his idea that the Santa Lucia Highlands – once simply part of the Monterey County wine zone – be carved out, recognized as a unique appellation. Achieving such recognition doesn’t come easy; involving bureaucrats is a process. It can take years to move the mountains of paperwork as well as attitudes required to have a new wine region officially recognized.
But Nicky pulled his fellow vintners together; they made their appeals, showed their wines, explained the benefits, and showed a few more wines… Three years later, Nicky had his new AVA (American Viticultural Area) – Santa Lucia Highlands became a reality.
In 1980 Hahn released its first wine and by 1991 Nicky’s Hahn Winery gave birth to the Santa Lucia Highlands. Hahn, Nicky’s dream now a reality, became synonymous with what today is one of California’s most important, most respected Pinot Noir zones. Nicky (Nicolaus) Hahn was a visionary. His vision gave the world one of its most important wine zones.
Hahn’s estate in this zone is breathtaking, their wines undeniably class-leading. Today the wines are made by Paul Clifton, his Midas touch undeniable. For 2014 – if you can dig up a few bottles – this estate hit a level of quality with their estate bottled wines that keeps me coming back for more. In particular Clifton’s SLH Pinot for 2014 is magical. Today, five years on, it’s only just beginning to spread its wings!
A smokin’ effort, as well as a terrific value, the 2014 Pinot Noir Hahn SLH (mostly from the Smith Vineyard) offers classic notes of forest floor, toasted spice, licorice and tons of Pinot Noir fruit in its medium-bodied, textured and layered profile. … I’m hard pressed to come up with a better value in Pinot Noir. Drink this pleasure bent beauty over the coming 4-5 years.
An estate that has hit another level of quality over the past few vintages, Hahn Family Wines focuses on estate vineyards in both the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Arroyo Seco Valley. The wines are made by Paul Clifton, everything is destemmed and aging occurs all in French oak. The big change recently is the moving of their limited-production, single vineyard releases to their Lucienne label. These are all made in tiny, 80- to 600-case quantities and are beautiful wines. In addition, their entry level wines and the new SLH releases (which are a blend of the single vineyards) are absolutely worth checking out.
92 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate — Drink 2016-2021