Oct 5, 2014

An Adventure at Pisoni Vineyards

So this was to be a breakthrough event for us. We were in a position to taste and report on wines that are very hard to get. To ask the hard questions and get answers from an icon of the industry. Talk to the one who has a passion for wine, and for us reinvented Pinot Noir beyond Sideways.  Access to the one who is in the vineyard, to one who is making the wine. We also had access to the one whose vision and passion, gave life to iconic and sort after grapes and wines that come from these vineyards. We even had access to another individual who is part owner of another winery that is privileged enough to purchase grapes from these amazing vineyards. So how did we do?
E P I C    F A I L !
Yeah nah, your eye’s are not deceiving you. Kiwi and Koala have to apologize because we failed. We had the best intentions but, we were led astray and it just did not really happen. What did happen you may ask?  Well the story goes like this...........

Well we arrived as directed way out in the bush of the Santa Lucia Highlands at 12 noon at  the Pisoni Family Vineyards. It is quite the little oasis, including a waterfall and multiple old style roman cisterns with a stone trough between them all the way to the large pond. It was also a beautiful day! We were greeted by our hosts, The Pisoni family. Gary Pisoni, his wife Margarite, his son and vineyard manager Mark, other son and winemaker Jeff. We were immediately handed a really nice Pinot Rosé by Jeff. The perfect starter for the warm afternoon. The event was primarily for the wine club members of Patz and Hall Winery. So as we started to ponder this lovely Rosé that had been handed us we were lured into trying some of Patz and Hall’s wine. Made with the grapes from one of the Pisoni Vineyards, the first was a 2002 Pinot Noir. This wine was excellent and as we engaged in conversation with Russell the general manager of Patz and Hall, we tried the next one, and then the next one, and then a special Library one. Before we could catch our breath Gary Pisoni runs up and pours us a glass full of something from a heavily dust covered bottle and says “you’re gonna love this”, and we did. We know that those who know us will be surprised but by now any real objective and quantitative analysis was basically just not going to happen. Yes we were getting pissed and we just became a couple of blokes drinking with friends having a BBQ. It was great!
A little bit later James Hall comes up to us a pours a Patz and Hall 1998 Pinot Noir. Now we have always believed that Pinot Noir’s should generally be consumed within about five to seven years of release. Again FAIL! This was still amazingly clear bright and had great fruit quality with a soft mouth feel and a seductively soft long finish. Second glass please!
The venue is a work in progress, and although a lot has been done, Gary has plans for a lot more. The original wine cellar is now a massive dining hall or more accurately halls. After a couple hours eating taco’s and cheeses and salamis and drinking copious amounts of awesome Pinot Noir, Gary instructs everyone to grab a bottle of wine and follow him as we head up to the dining hall. Great long tables lined with empty wine bottles with lit candles on top. Once the 40-50 people are settled with another glass of wine, they then file to the next food table for baked citrus salmon with asparagus, pasta and some BBQ chicken. Awesome! Of course there was Pisoni and Patz and Hall wine flowing constantly.

As the afternoon wound down and the bus load of people left Kiwi and Koala had some time to just talk and hang with Gary. This guy is as passionate about his vines and grapes and the wine it’s turned into as any person we have ever met. After thirty plus years the fire has not dimmed. During the conversation about where the water came from (the sixth well to 400 feet), terroir and micro climates (we know poncy) Gary jumps up and says “let’s go, I’ll show you what I’m talking about”. At that point it was into the famous 1960’s jeep and off on an adventure through Gary’s vision. A little like Mr. Toad’s wild ride with a little Mad Hatter thrown in but with an amazing amount of insight and knowledge of the vineyards and their terroir. Spending time with Gary around the vineyards, his passion is infectious and you can’t help being drawn into it.
Quote of the day from Gary Pisoni “I have three rules to make wine here.  You have to 1)be my friend, 2)make good wine, and 3) pay the bills!

As for the rest of the day, well you had to be there. So as the index fingers are cramping we will just finish by saying, what an amazing day with wonderful people and exceptional wines.

Thanks to Michele for helping with the arrangements and getting us there with great directions. To the Pisoni family for being gracious and generous hosts. We hope at some time to actually do a review of some of their wines, specifically to let you know how good they are and let you all know where to get them.


Kiwi and Koala


  1. Wow, sounds like an amazing experience with a guy that I am dying to meet!

    1. Gary is as passionate as he has ever been and a great ambassador for the Santa Lucia Highlands. Also throws an awesome party. Cheers!


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