Some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world grows in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey. These rugged and windswept mountains near the cool Pacific Ocean experience a long and dry growing season that results in wines with singular depth and complexity.

While the mountain range stretches for 100 miles from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, the wine district itself measures but 12 miles end to end and consists of only 6,100 acres of vineyards. By comparison, the Napa Valley has seven times as many acres planted to grapes.

All of Santa Lucia Highlands’ grapevines are planted on a narrow, terraced bench at elevations ranging from 200 to 1,200 feet above sea level. Vineyards run along the southeastern slopes of the Highlands where morning sun is abundant and where the gravelly, sandy loam soils drain beautifully.

Several favorable weather conditions join forces to produce wines of world-class stature. Elevated, southeastern-facing vineyards take advantage of morning sunshine, and stiff afternoon winds from Monterey Bay slow down photosynthesis for long, gentle ripening. Dry conditions during the growing season protect fruit from disease.

Nearly half of Santa Lucia Highlands acreage is Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay vineyards make up most of the rest. There’s a good reason for that. These two Burgundian grape varieties find exceptional expression here.

Acreage by Grape Variety

Pinot Noir: 3,095
Chardonnay: 2,060

Predominant Soil Types

Chualar Loam: deep sandy loams on alluvial fans and terraces at elevations of 50 to 2,000 feet.

Arroyo Seco Gravelly Loam: calcareous sandy loams formed in granite alluvial fans at elevations of 100 to 3,000 feet.

Placentia Sandy Loam: sandy loams forming in water from granite on moderately sloping fans and terraces.

SLH AVA

  • Established: 1991
  • Total Acres: 6,100 acres planted to vines
  • Climate: Cool Region 1 with fog and breezes off nearby Monterey Bay
  • Soil Types: Chualar Loam, Arroyo Seco Gravelly Sandy Loam, Placentia Sandy Loam