Of the many stories that accompany the founding of Napa Valley wineries, the story of the Peter Michael Winery is one of the most colorful and unexpected. Peter Michael was born in England, where he led several successful technology companies before being knighted in 1989 in recognition of his career in technology and other industries. In the same year he and his wife Maggie founded Peter Michael Winery in Calistoga. From the beginning it was Peter Michael’s mission to produce limited quantities of Chardonnay and a proprietary red that blended Old World winemaking with New World terroir. He has a talent for attracting talent, and some of the best winemakers in the Napa Valley have worked for him, including Helen Turley and Mark Aubert. All Peter Michael’s premier wines are bottled without filtration. There are 112 acres of vines, growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. About 100,000 bottles are produced annually. Winemaker is Nicolas Morlet, a native of Champagne and brother of Luc Morlet, Peter Michael’s former winemaker.
Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is a 12-mile long, narrow strip of an appellation wedged along the eastern hillsides of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Given its proximity to Big Sur and the Gabilan Mountain Range to the northeast, Santa Lucia a cool-climate wine growing district. Morning sun is often followed by maritime winds and fog in the afternoon, a weather pattern that prolongs the growing season and means long, gentle ripening of the grapes. Spanish missionaries planted vineyards in the district in the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that modern winemakers planted vineyards and began making high quality wine. The district received AVA status in 1991 and today there are 6,000 vineyard acres in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Pinot Noir is the dominant grape planted, followed by Chardonnay and Riesling.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.