HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Chalone Vineyard, 2009 (and 2010) Chardonnay, Monterey County. 13.5% ABV. Usually $10-12.

Several weeks ago, we reviewed the wonderful Chalone Merlot (see http://www.thefrugalwinesnob.com/?p=663). We are pleased to be getting around to telling you about the Chardonnay. The Chalone Chardonnay was sent to Paris in 1976 and was judged third in that small but history-changing wine tasting. (See “Judgment of Paris,” George M. Taber, http://www.thefrugalwinesnob.com/?p=733)

This beautiful, white Burgundy-style wine was pale straw in color with clear edges and clarity. (The 2010 was more golden with, as would be expected, a little more oak.)

The 2009 was crisp and refreshing, with some minerals woven in, and a delicious tart acidity. The French oak created a tightly woven structure, but only a hint of oak taste. Its delicious tart acidity was balanced by a silky, slightly creamy mouthfeel as it opened. The finish was amazing, with flavors of lemon and orange.

The 2010 was similar: crisp and acidic, but not overdone. Green fruit: apple, pear, honeydew. Mineral, vertical. Medium finish with lemon. Almost too drinkable—it took some discipline to swish and chew rather than swill!

LABEL NOTES: At Chalone Vineyard, we believe that great wine comes from great vineyards. The cooling effect of the nearby Pacific Ocean allows the grapes to slowly ripen on the vines, giving our Chardonnay firm acidity and crisp pear, apple, and nectarine flavors. As the pioneer in the Monterey wine region, we bring you great wines that reflect the unique characteristics of Monterey County vineyards.

WEB NOTES: A recognized pioneer, and the oldest bonded winery in Monterey, Chalone Vineyard is the one-and-only winery in the Chalone appellation. We are passionate fanatics who grow grapes at this estate vineyard to express its terroir. Our vineyard is one of the few in the U.S. that grows grapes in limestone-based soils, and has its own American Viticultural Area.

While the grapes for Chalone Vineyard Estate come from their high mountain estate, the grapes for the Monterey County wines come from distinct vineyards in the 75-mile long Salinas Valley, which begins in Monterey Bay and runs southeastward. Ancient volcanoes, active faults and tectonic plate movement created the Santa Lucia and Gavilan Mountain ranges, which flank the valley. The mountains form a wind tunnel, drawing cool ocean breezes off the Pacific Ocean into the valley. The cool air causes the vines to shut down and delays ripening of the grapes, leading to a longer growing season and hang time that results in intense fruit flavors. Soils in the valley are varied and include compositions of gravelly loam, sand, decomposed granite and limestone. This combination of well-drained soils, early-morning fog, warm afternoon sun and cool ocean air make the region ideal.

The winemaking team was excited at the opportunity to explore the diverse appellations in Salinas Valley to create the Chalone Vineyard Monterey County Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Not a newcomer to Monterey County, Chalone Vineyard Monterey County wines capture the rich and voluptuous fruit flavors that Monterey County’s unique microclimates and extremely long hang time can provide.

ABOUT THE OWNER: In 1964, Dick Graff, a Harvard music graduate and former naval officer, tasted a Windsor Vineyard wine made from Chalone grapes. He was immediately entranced and after visiting the remote winery, was determined to own Chalone. In 1965 Dick embarked on what has now become a part of California winemaking and viticultural history, attending University of California, Davis to learn winemaking and then he and his mother, Estelle, saved the Chalone property from imminent bankruptcy. Almost single-handedly, Dick was responsible for introducing California winemakers to the intricacies of malolactic fermentation in white wines as well as the now widespread practice of fermenting and aging white wine in small oak barrels. He was also one of the first persons to import and sell barrels from Burgundy in the United States.

WINEMAKER ROBERT COOK: Robert Cook joined Chalone Vineyard in 2007 as senior winemaker. In this role, Robert is responsible for creating wines that express the unique character of the vineyards surrounding Chalone Vineyard and managing the production of Chalone Monterey wines from vineyard to bottle.

Chalone Vineyard had a profound effect on Cook long before he accepted the winemaker position. While celebrating his 21st birthday with family, he enjoyed a bottle of 1981 Chalone Pinot Noir, which ultimately enticed him to study fermentation and enology. Before Chalone Vineyard, Cook was at Estancia Winery where he started as associate winemaker and worked his way up to director of winemaking. Cook was responsible for all Estancia winemaking though began primarily with red wines from their Monterey and Paso Robles vineyards, including the Pinot Noir, Meritage and Cabernet Sauvignon. Prior to joining Estancia, Robert worked as a winemaker in Spain for two years for Artadi and International Wine Services. He oversaw all aspects of Tempranillo, Grenache and some Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking while in Spain. While in Spain, he developed a love for all-things-Spanish and learned to speak the language. Robert has held harvest intern positions in Napa Valley at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Opus One, while earning his Bachelor of Science in Fermentation at the University of California at Davis.

WEB: www.ChaloneVineyard.com

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One Response to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Chalone Vineyard, 2009 (and 2010) Chardonnay, Monterey County. 13.5% ABV. Usually $10-12.

  1. Vanesa says:

    Great article/review! It is very informative. I also tasted and enjoyed the 2009 Chalone Chardonnay. I tried it recently, so it is nice to see how your tasting note compares to mine. More developed characters of oak, butter, caramel etc. are coming through now, and and some fruit seems to have been lost. Still, it is definately one worth trying! (Or trying again).

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