Producer Profile: McIntyre Estate Vineyards

Staff Writer
McIntyre Estate Vineyards provides a great blend of tradition and sustainability.
Producer Profile: McIntyre Estate Vineyards

The Santa Lucia mountains rise from Monterey County's fertile Salinas Valley on the west, separating it from the Pacific Ocean. The vines of this steep hillside district enjoy a cooling ocean breeze and fog from Monterey Bay which results in the finest early varietally-labeled Pinots from the district. Slow, gentle ripening that is California's longest “hang time” creates exceptional intensity, complexity, and balance in the grapes.

McIntyre Estate Vineyards is located in the central section of the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vineyard was  originally planted by the McFarland family in 1973 and boasts some of the Highlands’ oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. A 1979 Pinot Noir from the vineyard, under the “Stony Hill” label, is still regarded as one of the best produced from the area.

In March 1987, Steve McIntyre purchased the eighty acre property and put his years of experience to the test.  Over three decades, the McIntyre family has been setting the standard for winegrowing on the Central Coast and in Monterey County. Steve McIntyre graduated with a Masters degree in Enology from CSU Fresno and has planted and managed vineyards for numerous wineries including Galante, Smith & Hook, Mondavi, Joseph Phelps and Bonny Doon and has grown grapes for such prestigious wineries as Williams Selyem, Morgan, Artesa, Jordan, Bernardus, MacRostie, and Marilyn Remark, to name a few.

Long before the “green” movement, Steve McIntyre helped “write the book” on sustainable winegrowing in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. This founding family has been farming in a responsible, sustainable manner long before such practices became the “in” thing to do. They grow grapes organically and biodynamically for several wineries and apply many of these techniques to their winery as well, which holds "certified sustainable" status from both the CCVT's SiP program and the statewide CSWA.

In 2004, Steve brought in winemaker Byron Kosuge, a native of California's Central Valley who began his winemaking career in 1985 as a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist at Saintsbury Winery. After 15 years at Saintsbury, he departed in 2001 to pursue other projects, including his own label, B. Kosuge Wines, as well as Miura Vineyards, Foghorn, and Kingston Family Vineyards in Chile — all of which focus on Pinot Noir.

Today, the McIntyre Estate Vineyards keeps its focus on producing high-quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Merlot, as well as a very special bottling of sparking wine. We had the opportunity to have a focus tasting with Cheryl Warner, the vineyard's sales manager, to get to know these wines intimately.

Monterey County is known for its light and flavorful Chardonnays. The McIntyre 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Chardonnay was a nice break from very “oaky” Chardonnays that don’t allow the true essences of the varietal to be appreciated. The 2007 vintage earned a 92 point score from Wine Enthusiast which increased our expectation of the 2008 Vintage. On the nose, this lovely Chardonnay gave us aromas of grapefruit and orange giving way to lively citrus notes and balanced acid on the palate with hints of toast and butter on the end with a long finish. With only a 375 case production, this lovely Chardonnay was light, refreshing and fruit-forward showing the passion that went into making this true to the varietal wine.

Once again, our palates were salivating with anticipation when we opened this lovely 92 Point Wine from Wine Enthusiast. Steve used two clones of Pinot Noir sustainably grown from their estate vineyard located in the heart of the coveted Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. On the nose, characteristic light cherry and raspberry notes flow into a palate of cola and red jammy fruit with spice and a long elegant finish. This wonderful Pinot Noir was only the second Estate Pinot Noir to date and is very special. So special in fact, we took a bottle of the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir into the world renown Palme D’Or restaurant in the historical Biltmore Resort and Spa in Coral Gables Florida and shared it with the Wine Director/GM and chef.

Steve McIntyre is a true legend and his wines reflect his passion for winemaking and growing. We look forward to visiting again soon as he is in the midst of planning a “green” winery and visitors' center for their estate vineyard. The new facility will  reflect their  decades-long commitment to sustainable winegrowing. In addition  they plan to  make conscientious use of the natural attributes of their  estate, employing solar collectors and even wind power, taking advantage of those  famously strong Highlands’ breezes off Monterey Bay.