Thursday, February 21, 2013
Sometimes broken dreams can be delicious.
If Steve McIntyre had realized his dream of becoming a professional musician, for instance, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy his elegant Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
Fortunately enough, he’s doing more grape growing than guitar playing – and though he goes about his farming with a quiet humility, folks are figuring out he’s pretty good at it: The California Association of Winegrape Growers recently named him its Grower of the Year, which comes just as McIntyre Vineyards celebrates its 25th anniversary.
A quarter century ago, McIntyre reminisces, there were no regional wine associations, vines were planted on their roots, the SLH appellation was unborn and Pinot Noir was an obscure varietal.
“Direct sales was something you sold to a relative,” he says. “Wine clubs did not exist.”
As one of the first growers to plant in SLH, the former Smith & Hook winemaker is qualified to provide perspective. But he would just as soon go about his business than toast years of accomplishments. His sales chief could only shake her head when he avoided reporters at the CAWG award ceremony.
“He’s really humble,” says his daughter Kristin, who manages their still-new tasting room at the Hyatt Regency Monterey (649-WINE). “He’s not into being in the spotlight. He’d rather take a couple congratulations and move on.”
The award caught McIntyre off-guard.
“Totally a surprise,” he says. “It is great to have an award from my peers, but it’s all about what we’ve been able to do as team. I hoped the plaque said ‘Monterey Pacific’ and not my name.”
There are other surprises to be found with one of the truly good guys of the local winescape – beyond the fact that he has pioneered not just the appellation with the likes of Rich Smith (of Paraiso) and Nicky Hahn (of Hahn Estates) but green growing as a founding member of the Central Coast Vineyard Team’s Sustainability in Practice (SIP) program. Like the fact that he listens to Eminem when washing dishes. Or that he has a pilot’s license. Or that he raises Bernese mountain dogs. (He and his high school sweetheart, his wife Kim, currently have five.) Or that he invests hours and hours in the local 4H as boss of hogs, driving scores of piglets across the state so kids can learn to farm.
But the biggest surprise is that nobody has really heard of Monterey Pacific, even though it’s the fifth largest vineyard management company in the entire country, tending more than 10,000 acres for labels like J. Lohr, Bonny Doon, Trinchero and Biagio. It doesn’t even have a website.
“It kinda flies under the radar,” McIntyre says. “I’m proud we’ve been able to create something transparent that inspires trust with clients. Something authentic.”
The estate wines he does with winemaker Byron Kosuge for his own label, meanwhile, simply fly high. His Pinots and Chardonnay rank among some of the area’s best representatives, and the 2011 Merlot ($19), Pinot Rosé ($19.50) and sparkling L’homme Qui Ris ($29) are showing well right now too. (May 18’s epic Santa Lucia Highlands Gala presents a perfect terroir-appropriate chance to try them.)
“The wines speak for themselves,” he says. “The Highlands is such a special place the Pinot and Chardonnay tend to be the most world class.”
One way he likes to describe them, fittingly, is through music.
“We strive to create something sensual, like music, which brings joy and inspiration,” he says, “and is an artistic statement of our vineyard.”
• Fresh oysters are only $1.50 during 3-5pm happy hour at A.W. Shucks (624-6605) in Carmel. Buck off beers too.
• Vegans like pubs too. And Crown & Anchor (649-6496) is repping vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free fare with enthusiasm.
• After undergoing a remodel that touched nearly every facet of the resort, Carmel Valley’s historic Quail Lodge & Golf Club will emerge from a $28 million renovation in a little more than a month.
• Few places I’d rather be Saturday, March 9, than Portuguese Hall for another all-you-can-eat crab dinner – crab and shrimp cioppino, salad, garlic bread, wine, dessert plus music and dancing – for $45. 204-0584.
• Esteban (375-0176) teams with Joyce on a five-course wine dinner ($75) 6:30pm Wednesday, March 13.
• Marc Jones has rebirthed Abrego Bistro (372-7551) in the hotel across from Great Wall in downtown Monterey with oatmeal pancakes ($11), bean pies ($5.95) and salmon en papillote ($21.95).
• If you’re looking for a cupcake operation to call your own, A Piece of Cake (682-2683) is for sale in Salinas. Call 206-4421.
• Five meteoric star chefs – John Shields, George Mendes, James Syhabout, Matthias Merges and Scott Anderson – join Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza at Aubergine (624-8578) for one of the more remarkable dinners the area’s seen since, well, ever: Twelve courses centered on coastal cuisine, $250 ($110 for wine pairings), sure-fire sell-out March 9.
• National Margarita Day is Friday, Feb. 22. Two-for-one at Abalonetti (373-1851).
• After a knockout dinner at Sierra Mar the night before (which is sold out) Former Le Bernardin pastry master Michael Laiskonis demos his art form as part of a benefit event ($50) 1pm Sunday, Feb. 24, at MEarth Hilton Bialek Habitat in Carmel. www.MEarthCarmel.org.
• “In wine,” said Pliny the Elder, “there’s truth.”