Jerry Lohr honored as American Wine Legend by Wine Enthusiast

Jerry Lohr is credited with bringing the wines of Paso Robles and Monterey County to global prominence. Critics especially love his 2013 J. Lohr Hilltop Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. (Images courtesy of jlohr.com)

JERRY LOHR visited me at The News sometime in the 1990s bearing large maps of California’s Monterey County to show where his vineyards were either planted or about to be. Today those vineyards, including more in Napa Valley, are all in place, some 5,000 acres, all certified sustainable and Jerry is a certified wine hero to fellow vintners and wine lovers around the world. The J. Lohr name on the bottle is a stamp of quality. And don’t worry — overpricing is not Lohr’s style.

Earlier this year, Jerry Lohr, who recently turned 80, was named an American Wine Legend by Wine Enthusiast magazine at its 17th annual Wine Star Awards in Miami. He is only the third person since 2000 to receive this honor. The other two were Peter Mondavi Sr. and Clark Robert Smith.

Adam Strum, editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast, had this to say: “What Robert Mondavi was to Napa Valley, Jerry Lohr is to the Central Coast, leading and elevating an entire viticultural region from Monterey to Paso Robles with perseverance, dedication and a passion for quality.”

Lohr planted his first Monterey County estate vineyards in 1972 and his original Paso Robles vineyards in 1988. Today, his vineyards also reach to Napa Valley. There are four tiers of wines: the moderately priced J. Lohr Estates; the Vineyard Series, the Cuvée Series and J. Lohr Gesture.

Here’s a taste of the latest releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Vineyard Series.

J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Monterey 2015, $25: Kristen Barnhisel, winemaker for white wines at Lohr, calls it an ode to Burgundy. It has lots of texture, body and complexity. Intense aromas of white nectarine, white peach, crème brûlée, vanilla and a kiss of white flowers are followed by flavors deftly woven with spicy French oak. Flavors exhibit the “leesy” character of weekly stirring during aging.

J. Lohr October Night Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Monterey 2015, $25: Spicy French oak, lots of texture, complexity and intense flavors — all of which make for a very “California” style, says Barnhisel. It’s a big wine laced with toasty oak and packed with intense aromas of white flowers, tropical fruit and citrus followed by flavors of tangerine, apple and brown baking spices.

J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco Monterey 2014, $35: True to Lohr’s style of red wines, it’s intense, deeply flavored, full-bodied and smooth on the palate. Aromas exhibit cherry, strawberry, rhubarb and sage. It’s still tasting young and tightly wound, stuffed to the gills with fruit and oak. It’s a savory wine with soft tannins. Steve Peck makes the red wines at J. Lohr.

J. Lohr Highlands Bench Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Monterey 2014, $35: Santa Lucia Highlands — SLH — has carved out a reputation for world-class Pinot Noir like this one. It’s packed with lush tannins, tons of fruit, great intensity. It has enticing aromas of dark cherry, strawberry, brown baking spice, vanilla. The palate is densely structured.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com.