panoramic view of Santa Lucia Highlands

5 Things to Know About the Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands flies under the radar for many wine lovers, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay enthusiasts know to look to this region for remarkably consistent wines. Here are five more facts to get you oriented to Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) AVA.

  • Cool Climate Varieties Dominate: The SLH AVA is comprised of 6,400 planted acres, with a majority being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is worth noting that the appellation stretches roughly 18-miles long, two miles wide, and 22,000 total acres, much of it unplantable mountainside.
  • The Pioneers: In 1973, the first commercial plantings began with early pioneers, such as Hahn Family Wines founder, Nicky Hahn, established the first quality, modern-era vineyards. In 1991, compelled by the application submitted by pioneers like, Mr. Hahn, the SLH was officially recognized as an American Viticulture Area.
  • Cool+Dry+Wind = Loooong Growing Season: It’s not atypical for a Santa Lucia Highland growing season to stretch from February through November.
  • More about that Wind: A defining feature of the region, strong daily 5-25 mph winds off Monterey Bay are key factor in long “hang time” and phenolic ripeness – winds diminish photosynthesis early in the day, extending the growing season.
  • Location, location, location: Located in Monterey County adjacent to the famed Salinas Valley, the eastern facing vineyards of the SLH stretch between 50’ and 1,650’ above sea level.

Expert Source: Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines, has spent a career understanding the wind, sun and soils of the Santa Lucia Highlands.  If you’re looking for more information regarding the SLH or about Hahn Family Wines for any upcoming features please contact Alex Parker at parker@bensonmarketing.com to schedule an interview.

Paul Clifton beside wine barrels
Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines