The McIntyre Estate Vineyard lies in the middle of the 12-mile long stretch of benchland above the Salinas River known as the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. Originally planted by the McFarland family in 1973, this beautiful spot boasts some of the Highlands’ oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines, historically used primarily for making sparkling wine. However, a 1979 Pinot Noir from this particular vineyard, under the Stony Hill label, is still regarded as one of the finest early varietally-labeled Pinots from the area.
In March of 1987, Steve McIntyre purchased the eighty-acre property near Gonzales, and slowly began to replant. With his experience from neighboring Hahn Estate as winemaker for Smith & Hook, Steve was an enthusiastic early believer in the Highlands, along with pioneer Rich Smith (Paraiso), who is credited with the first vineyard plantings in the region in 1983. An avid fan of this unique terroir, Steve, along with Nicky Hahn of Smith & Hook and Hahn Estates, was instrumental in helping define and promote it, eventually resulting in official recognition of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in 1991. Steve was joined by ranching and farming families Pisoni, Franscioni, Manzoni, Boekenoogen and others, who began converting their row crops to vineyards.
Today, there are over 6,000 acres of vineyards here, primarily Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah, planted on the terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, overlooking the Salinas River Valley. Here, fogs and breezes off nearby Monterey Bay funnel southeast, between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges, creating a cool, true Region I climate.
Early bud break and fruit set are hallmarks of McIntyre’s mid-Highlands location, permitting long hang-time and superb flavor development, with harvest running clear into late October. Mid-season leaf pulling and other canopy management techniques help focus the vines’ efforts, and sustainable viticulture practices including cover crops, are rigorously employed. The McIntyre commitment to green farming goes back to Steve’s early viticulture days, and McIntyre Vineyards was among the first to be SIP (Sustainability In Practice) Certified in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Current estate Highlands plantings include 37 acres own-rooted Pinot Noir, known as the “Heritage clone,” which is the oldest Pinot Noir in the SLH, along with 10 acres of clones 115 and 777 Pinot Noir, and 13 acres of Chardonnay, clones 96 and 76. In addition, the McIntyre vineyard portfolio includes Merlot plantings in the McIntyre’s home vineyard in Arroyo Seco, named for Steve’s wife, Kimberly, as well as Pinot in the Mission Ranch vineyard, planted to clones 667 and 777, which comprise the McIntyre Mission Ranch Pinot offering.
Steve McIntyre has helped “write the book” on sustainable winegrowing. As a founding member of CCVT, Steve McIntyre was an early innovator in identifying and putting into practice the now official, stringent sustainability protocols. Sustainable winegrowing is a “big picture” philosophy taking into account the cumulative impact of every decision related to the 3 pillars of sustainability; Fiscal, Social and Environmental.