Testarossa: The 2022 Pinot Noirs from the Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta Rita Hills, Chalone and Arroyo Grande

Testarossa sources Pinot Noir grapes from some of California’s most noteworthy vineyards in three contiguous, Central Coast counties:  Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara.  Most of the vineyards are exposed to the cooling influences of the Pacific Ocean.  Winemaker Bill Brosseau uses similar techniques making the wines, so the differences in the wines mostly reflect terroir.   What they all have in common is especially rich fruit, the right amount of balancing acidity, and juicy, bordering on lush textures. The wines were tasted at the winery in Los Gatos, where we also tasted  many older vintages (see photo), and at our offices in Washington DC.

Regional Blends

Testarossa 2022 Niclaire Pinot Noir California ($106) 95  Saturated ruby. Expressive aromas redolent of dark cherry, pomegranate, lavender and toasty oak.  A very silky and densely flavored wine seamlessly integrated with expensive French oak.  Hedonistic mouthfeel, delicious layered flavors, and fine-grained tannins, finishing with a lingering sense of purity.  Outstanding.  A barrel selection from the AVAs that Testarossa sources fruit from. Aged 18 months in 82% new French oak. pH 3.43, 14.3% alc.  Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($57) 92  This wine is an appellation wine, a blend of Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards. It sees a bit less new oak than the other Testarossa Pinots but is otherwise made the same way. Medium dark red in color, sweet, almost candied, herbal-tinged red cherry fruit jumps out of the glass. In the mouth, it also reveals a fruit forward character and a round fullness with gentle tannins. Aged 13 months in 41% new French oak. pH 3.71, 14.1% alc.

Sta Rita Hills

Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

The Sta Rita Hills AVA was approved in 2001, three years before the release of Sideways, the 2004 box office movie hit (partly filmed at the Sanford Winery in Sta. Rita Hills) that raised the visibility of and demand for Pinot Noir.  The AVA consists of a series of east-west coastal mountain ranges that provide an entry point for the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean through fog, wind and moderating summer heat.  The Sta Rita Hills have generally moderate temperatures throughout the growing season with a mean high in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-50s, about perfect for Pinot Noir. In 2022, Testarossa sourced fruit from three vineyards along Santa Rosa Road which runs east-west through the lower part of the AVA along Santa Rosa Rd.  The vineyards vary in terms of clones planted, soils, and exposure, and the wines, reviewed below, differ too.

Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($79) 94  The Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir is always one of our favorites, and the 2022 vintage doesn’t disappoint. Of the three Sta Rita Hills vineyards that Testarossa sources from, Sanford & Benedict is the furthest east. It has young vines (14 years old) and is planted to Dijon Clones 828, 667, and 943. The wine is red fruited with notes of red and black berries, rose petals, and cassis. Soft and pliant in the mouth, it shows an overall sense of refinement and a very long, focused finish with well-knit tannins. Matured 15 months in 57% new French oak. pH 3.41, 14.3% alc. Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($79) 93 The complex and compelling La Rinconada Pinot Noir is the best we’ve yet had from this vineyard, which sits just to the west of the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. The wine opens with dark cherry skin and herbal, tea-like notes. It’s soft with dark red fruit on entry and earthy, briar and tobacco notes entering on the mid-palate. Finishes long with firm, gracious tannins. The 25 year old vines of La Riconada are Clones 4 and Mount Eden. Matured 15 months in 67% new French oak. Give this wine some cellar time. 14.2% alc. Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Rancho La Viña Vineyard Sta Rita Hills ($79) 92 Dark red. The Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir opens with scents of black raspberries, currants and spice. It’s most lush and open of the Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, supple and juicy with a rich, pure core of brooding dark red fruit. Mouth filling with a very long, extracted finish and sweet tannins. pH 3.22, 14.4% alc. All Clone 115 sourced from the 35 acre, north facing Rancho La Viña Vineyard located on Santa Rosa Rd about 2 miles west of the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Matured 12 months in 50% new French oak.

The Arroyo Grande Valley (SLO Coast)

Rincon Vineyard

San Luis Obispo County lies just north of Santa Barbara County.  It’s home to one of America’s newest AVAs, the SLO (San Luis Obispo) Coast.  The two wines reviewed here were both sourced from vineyards owned and cultivated by the Talley family in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, a sub-AVA of the SLO Coast.  We tasted the 2021 vintages of these two wines for our Report #    SLO Coast and gave them similar evaluations.

Both these wines came from vineyards farmed by the Talley Family. Rosemary’s vineyard was previously an avocado orchard and has fractured sandstone and shale loam soils. Don Talley began planting the vineyard in 1987, and Jim Clenenden of Au Bon Climat was the first to produce a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Rosemary’s in 1991.  The original Rincon Vineyard with sandstone and calcareous clay soils was planted with self-rooted vines by Don Talley in 1982; it has since been replanted.

Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley (SLO Coast) ($79) 94 Dark ruby. Sourced from California’s newest and coolest AVA, this Pinot Noir is particularly fresh with red fruit and earth and a hint of toasty oak on the nose. There are layered fruit and earthy flavors on the palate with excellent mid-palate weight and a long spicy, savory finish with fine round tannins. Hand harvested from 35 year old vines (667 Clone), destemmed and fermented in stainless steel; matured 15 months in 86% new French oak.Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley (SLO Coast) ($79) 94 The Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir opens with aromas of dark cherry and a hint of earthiness. It’s mouth filling with excellent depth of concentrated dark red fruit and savory herbs. Finishes long and focused. Made from 37 year old vines (Clones 2A and 667) grown in calcareous clay at 400? with a southwest orientation. Aged 12 months in 57% new French oak. pH 3.56, 14.1% alc.

Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA has long been the core of Testarossa’s Pinot Noir portfolio. The Highlands [outlined in white in the picture] run north to south between the fertile Salinas Valley and the Sierra de Salinas mountains.  The AVA is about eighteen miles long but narrow in width.  Beneath the Salinas Valley lies the Salinas River which flows north-northwest towards the ocean at Monterey from its origin near San Luis Obispo.  It is a shallow river with most of its water flowing underground, making it the longest underground river in the US. It is the Salinas River that feeds the large aquifer that provides the water to irrigate both the flatland crops that constitute America’s “salad bowl” and the vineyards that slope upwards from those flatlands to the mountains beyond.   The Salinas River is familiar to those who have read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($81) 94  Sumptuous nose of red cherry and raspberry. Opulent in the mouth with impressive fresh fruit concentration and bright acidity.  Round tannins on the finish.  Owned by boyhood friends, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, this highly acclaimed 50-acre vineyard was established in 1997.  The vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir from the Pisoni Selection on Arroyo Seco sandy loam.  Garys’ sits in the middle of the Highlands region at 300 feet above sea level and rises to 500 feet with an East/Southeast exposure.  Matured 18 months in 65% new French oak. 14.3% alc. Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($96) 95 Opens with a bouquet of black cherry, black raspberry, and a hint of toasty oak. Beautifully balanced and full in the mouth with bright fresh fruit and moderate tannins.  Very long finish. A beautiful wine.  This vineyard, established in 1982 by Gary Pisoni, consists of 45 acres and is situated in the rolling foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains at about 1,300 ft. above the Salinas Valley.  It is composed of several small vineyard blocks, each with a unique soil type and microclimate.  The property sits at the southern end of the SLH at a considerably higher altitude than the majority of vineyards in the AVA.  Its mountainous terrain, consisting of well-drained alluvial fans of very thin decomposed granite soil, stresses the vines, producing grapes of intense character. Matured 19 months in 57% new French oak.  14.3% alc.  Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($79) 94 Floral nose, rose petals. Nice spicy edge. Precise on the palate….lots of fruit….very cherry and pomegranate like. Spice on palate, too. Long spicy, red fruit finish. These wines are all fruit driven, richly fragrant and flavorful….not terribly complex but delicious easy drinking. Not as syrupy as Garys. J: light nose. V sim to Garys’. A touch of cranberry. Like the Garys but not as sweet. Clone 667 and the Pisoni Selection, 26-year-old vines grown on sandy, gravelly loam; matured 12 months in 55% new French oak. pH 3.30, 14.2% alc. Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($79) 95 The Sierra Mar Pinot Noir is a beauty! Rich fruit and savory elements play off against one another resulting in a beautifully balance, tension-filled wine. There’s excellent depth of flavor and a serious character to this wine. The Sierra Mar Vineyard has 15 year old vines planted in loamy, decomposed granite soils at 1000? elevation. Matured 18 months in 47% new French oak. pH 3.45, 14.2% alc.  Testarossa 2022 Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($79) 93 Pure fruit aromas of black raspberry, dark cherry and plum show on a fragrant nose. Broad on the palate with concentrated, rich fruit and hints of underbrush and soil. Nice firmness with fresh acidity and a long, flavorful finish. The Soberanes Vineyard has 15-year-old, Pisoni Selection vines planted on sandy loam soils at 400? elevation with an east/northeast orientation. Aged 12 months in 62% new French oak. pH 3.28, 14.3% alc.


Pinnacles National Monument


The Chalone AVA Pinot Noir comes from winemaker Bill Brosseau’s family vineyard planted over four decades ago.  It’s terroir is very different from the other vineyards that Testarossa sources grapes from.  Unlike the other vineyards planted close to the Pacific at relatively low elevations, the Brosseau Vineyard is not close to the sea, and it sits at 1700’ elevation in the shadow of nearby Pinnacles National Monument. Its soils are also different, heavy limestone with decomposed granite.  The wine is also different from the other Pinots tasted, more earthy and focused than fruity and lush.

Testarossa 2021 Pinot Noir Brosseau Vineyard Chalone ($76) 94  Medium ruby red. The Brosseau Vineyard Pinot Noir shows plenty of red and black fruit, but it’s the savoriness that sets it apart with earthy spices and underbrush dried fruit notes. The mouthfeel is also different, straighter and laser-focused. Although this wine is from the 2021 vintage, it would still benefit from additional cellaring. Sourced from 42-year-old vines grown at 1700? elevation on the limestone soils of the Chalone AVA and matured 20 months in 64% new French oak. pH 3.4, 14.1% alc.

Source : https://i-winereview.com/blog/index.php/2024/06/10/testarossa-the-2022-pinot-noirs-from-the-santa-lucia-highlands-sta-rita-hills-chalone-and-arroyo-grande/