Pietra Santa was one of the real surprises at the August 17 Family Winemakers tasting. They’re located in Hollister, not exactly a hotbed of winery activity. They actually have four labels: Route 152, Pietra Santa, Signature Collection, and Sacred Stone. (Pietra Santa translates to sacred stone.) The Route 152 label is a pinot noir blend and the Sacred Stone is a red blend. We didn’t taste the Sacred Stone, but at $10 we’d take a chance on it. With 19,366 cases produced, they’re unlikely to run out soon even at this price. (The current release is “Cask #005,” a number that appropriately expresses the optimism of the owners. When they reach “Cask #500” they’ll have achieved something!) Although Pietra Santa gets third place, it’s worth reminding everyone that the top six wineries are separated by very, very thin lines.
The current owners, Phyllis and John Blackburn, acquired the vineyard and winery in 2005. They run the operation with the help of their son, Cort and his wife.
The Blackburn family has been farming for about 50 years. From almonds in the San Joaquin Valley to wine grapes in nearby Santa Clara County, their move to winemaking was a natural evolution. Notably, Phyllis was born and raised in the Napa Valley.
Their 117 acre vineyard (including 35 acres of pinot noir) is in the Gabilan Mountains 25 miles east of Monterey, just west of U.S. 101. For those unfamiliar with the area, route 152 is an actual highway, known as one of the better routes between Gilroy and Interstate 5 (and, east of I-5, the Basque sheep-herding town of Los Baños).
The Route 152 Central Coast ($10, a very serious bargain) is eminently quaffable. Nothing very complicated here, but a nice, every day pinot noir. Route 152 is a blend of grapes from the Pietra Santa estate and their sister vineyard, Dunne Ranch (see map above).
By contrast, the Cienaga Valley 2012 Estate ($18) may have been suffering from a bit of bottle shock. We could detect subtle lavender aromas with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of cola on the palate. The finish is pepper and minerality.
Pietra Santa is another one to watch!