The Resounding Success of ROAR in the Santa Lucia Highlands

By Published On: May 31, 2023

Credit: ROAR Wines

In the picturesque landscape of the Santa Lucia Highlands, in Monterey County, where rolling hills meet endless skies, the Franscioni family has cultivated a rich agricultural heritage spanning three generations.

With roots tracing back to the northern hills of Italy and the serene valleys of Switzerland, their journey began with their great grandfathers, who bravely immigrated to the fertile Salinas Valley, embarking on a new life as dairy and vegetable farmers.  Gary Franscioni emerged as a torchbearer, inheriting the legacy that had been passed down through the years. Armed with a degree from Cal Poly, he embraced the family business, but destiny had more in store. Recognizing the changing tides and inspired by a deep connection to the land, he pivoted toward planting and nurturing permanent crops including lemons, avocados, and grapes.

Driven by a taste for innovation, Gary and his wife, Rosella, embarked on a new chapter. In 2001, they started ROAR Wines.  The name itself resonates with the spirit of celebration, mirroring the resounding roar of a crowd witnessing a momentous sporting victory, the crescendo of energy at a peak-fueled party, or even gusts of wind roaring through their beloved valley.

Credit: ROAR Wines

The vineyards offer up an enchanting allure, where every detail is meticulously attended to with unwavering commitment. Over the course of ten months, a dedicated crew of 40 men and women passionately tended to the vines, their skilled hands delicately passing through the rows every 10 to 12 days. Defined by a southeast-facing alluvial terrace, the region showcases a gently sloping terrain, extending from the base of the mountains to the valley floor.  This well defined topography sets the stage for a remarkable viticultural canvas, where the majority of soils consist of Arroyo Seco sandy loam, with select areas made up of decomposed granite. The climate is a marriage between coastal influence and warm California sun. Most days, the vineyards are blanketed with a morning fog followed by heavy afternoon winds. These coastal gusts serve as a natural aerator, creating a constant breeze that invigorates the vineyards. The combination of fog and wind plays a pivotal role in regulating photosynthesis, granting the grapes additional hang time during ripening.The extended maturation period allows for the development of complex flavors and a remarkable expression of terroir within the harvested fruit.

The essence of ROAR wines lies in their fruit-forward profile, coupled with a remarkable texture and depth. This distinctive approach sets them apart in the industry, showcasing a unique combination of flavors and structure that speaks to their discerning taste. One of the key advantages of their operation is the degree of control the Franscioni family is able to exert over the winemaking process.  By directly farming and managing the vineyards, they possess valuable insight over all harvest decisions and logistical aspects of the business maintaining consistency across most vintages. For instance, harvesting decisions now encompass different stages of the ripening phase. They also harvest some lots slightly earlier or later, providing more blending options. This approach leads to the creation of wines that are intriguing and never excessive.

For their Pinot Noirs, the wines exhibit a diverse range of red, blue, and black fruits, influenced by the specific vineyard locations. The tannins are typically refined and supple, contributing to an enjoyable mouthfeel.  ROAR focuses on several key elements. Intense fruit flavors take precedence, accompanied by a well structured and weighty body. The oak integration is carefully managed to complement and support the wines without overpowering them. During the blending process, careful attention is paid to the aromas and finish of the wines to ensure they meet the high benchmarks set by the winery.

With regards to their Chardonnays, they aim to achieve a similar quality to their Pinot Noirs. What sets their Chardonnays apart is their tendency to exhibit high viscosity in the bottle, distinguishing them from many others. The oak usage typically consists of 40% new oak, while the remainder consists of once and twice used barrels. “Our Chardonnays offer a unique profile that stands out– they are a true representation of our winemaking style and the distinctiveness of the region,” said Nick Franscioni, winery manager.

Credit: ROAR Wines

The Santa Lucia Highlands has emerged as a shining star, showcasing its excellent suitability for producing remarkable Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay and various grape varieties. While this region may not command the spotlight, its wines often rival the very best of California’s Pinot Noir offerings.  However, untapped opportunities lie in enhancing hospitality and visitation to the area, hindered by insufficient infrastructure and investment. Although the proximity to popular tourist destinations like Monterey and Carmel is advantageous, the drive of approximately 45 minutes or more acts as a barrier.  “We would love to see more market recognition and education about the area,” shares Nick. He notes the commendable efforts of the trade groups in the area to promote the region, but emphasizes the need for additional time and investment to propel it further.   

As the wine industry evolves, a trend of consolidation and winery/vineyard sales has become evident over the past few years.  Notably, larger groups are expanding their wine portfolios and production capacities.  Additionally, a shift towards public investments with the market is expected, potentially altering the competitive landscape in various ways, both positive and negative for the Santa Lucia Highlands. While adaptation is necessary, ROAR will remain true to their roots and uphold their mission to grow and craft the finest wines possible.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review.  The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation  or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2019 Grenache, Sierra Mar Vineyard- The aromatics are immediately enchanting, offering an expressive bouquet of ripe red fruits. Strawberries on the vine just waiting to be picked, with an earthiness that invites contemplation harmoniously, creating an inviting and complex aromatic profile. Layers of delicate floral notes, such as violet and lavender, add an ethereal touch to the bouquet, enhancing its allure.

2021 Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard- With a velvety texture caressing the palate, this wine unfurls a tapestry of strawberry and cherry flavors. Delicate yet vibrant, each sip is a harmonious dance of fruity notes, painting the taste buds with its graceful strokes. As the journey culminates, the wine bestows a rounded finish.

2013 Pinot Noir, Soberanes Vineyard- delightful medley of flavors, reminiscent of strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. This wine concludes with a gratifyingly extended finish, gracefully lingering on the senses. Given its remarkable structure and balance, this Pinot Noir has the potential to gracefully evolve over the next five to ten years, showcasing its continued elegance and complexity.

2021 Syrah, Sierra Mar Vineyard- vibrant flavors of blackberries, black cherry and chocolate with a velvety finish.  This wine has a softened demeanor, culminating with complexity and flavors. A tribute to the rugged landscape.

2021 Chardonnay, Sierra Mar Vineyard- exudes the essence of peaches and a delightful apple crisp, complemented by the enchanting presence of honeysuckle and a subtle hint of caramel. This vintage unveils a captivating fruit-forward profile that effortlessly captivates the senses. Its texture is impeccably soft, yet infused with an invigorating vibrancy that adds an extra layer of allure.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

Avatar photo
Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : .