Pietra Santa is a family run estate producing outstanding artisanal wines and olive oils. It is located 25 miles from Monterey Bay in the beautiful Cienega Valley. Founded in the early 1850’s by Frenchman Theophile Vache, it is now owned by the Blackburn family. Pietra Santa fashions an array of delicious wines, thanks to the acumen of Italian winemaker Alessio Carli and the estate’s unique terroir. The estate’s proximity to the coast emits cooling maritime breezes that temper the summer sun, resulting in a long growing season and vibrant balanced wines. Moreover, the winery’s location on the San Andreas Fault creates soils rich in granite and limestone that naturally lower vineyard yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named Pietra Santa, Italian for “Sacred Stone, in honor of these exceptional soils.
Although Pietra Santa spans more than 400 acres spread across Cienega Valley, adjacent bench lands, and nearby Gabilan Mountains, only 120 acres are devoted to wine grapes. Each of the winery’s nine grape varieties benefits from the estate’s varied terrain. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio enjoy steep, terraced hillsides and thrive in the bright morning sun as well as cool, afternoon shade. Meanwhile, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are grown on the moderate bench land, while Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are planted in the deepest parts of the valley to receive maximum sun exposure. Pietra Santa’s oldest vineyards date to 1905.
What is perhaps most impressive about Pietra Santa is how winemaker Alessio Carli brings out the best in each of Pietra Santa’s varietals. Tuscan by birth, Alessio first learned to make Chianti with his father. He then went on to study agronomy at college and later earned a graduate degree in enology. In Tuscany, he spent two years at Fattoria Il Castagno where he supervised the fattoria’s production of both wine and olive oil. He also served as Assistant Winemaker at Badia a Coltibuono, one of Chianti’s most celebrated estates, before coming to California in 1990. He has worked exclusively with Pietra Santa since 1998. His expertise with Sangiovese, an indigenous Tuscan grape, is nationally renowned. However, Pietra Santa’s Dunne Ranch Chardonnay may be the winery’s best kept secret and Alessio Carli’s ace in the hole, but choosing one progeny over another at Pietra Santa is akin to “Sophie’s Choice.” From our experience Alessio’s olive oils are quite exceptional as well. In short, Pietra Santa is one of California’s rising stars, and its wines are not to be missed.