The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2013

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Page 114 of 148

THE WANDERING SOMMELIER WHAT TURNS SOMMELIERS ON? GOOD QUESTION—AND ONE THAT WILL, HENCEFORTH, BE THE FOCUS OF RANDY CAPAROSO'S "WANDERING SOMMELIER" COLUMNS. —ED. Return of the Native A PEBBLE BEACH SOMM DISCOVERS THE CHALONE AVA'S BROSSEAU VINEYARD story and photos by Randy Caparoso D Bill Brosseau and Paige Bindel, CS. Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA. uring the 1960s and 1970s, Chalone Vineyard loomed large from its mountain site on California's Central Coast, 1,600 to 2,000 feet above the Salinas Valley. Its meager, arid soil composed of crushed granite and limestone was strikingly similar to some of the great vineyards of France. In 1982 an American Viticultural Area was established under the name Chalone, but in recent years the luster of original estate has faded somewhat. Jon and Jan Brosseau came to know the appellation as two of Chalone's original shareholders. True believers in the terroir, the Brosseaus broke ground on a new vineyard right next door to the original Chalone Vineyard in 1980. Brosseau Vineyard eventually came of age, recently becoming the darling of cutting-edge producers such as Copain, Wind Gap, Arnot-Roberts, Donkey & Goat, Loring, Tantara and Bedrock. Testarossa is another top-echelon producer of Brosseau-grown wines; not coincidentally, Testarossa winemaker Bill Brosseau (Jon and Jan's son) also manages Brosseau Vineyard. There are few vineyard-designate wines that contemporary sommeliers (at least on the West Coast) consider "must-haves" as much as the ones coming out of Brosseau. The AVA's famed calcareous mountain soil is a big factor, and so is the philosophy of the winegrowers themselves, particularly in respect to picking earlier, when acidity is still elevated and sugars (hence, resulting alcohol) are moderated, allowing minerality to become as much a part of the wines as fruit expression, especially when oak inluences are downplayed. This past January, I made a rare pilgrimage to the Chalone AVA in the company of Paige Bindel CS, Sommelier at Pèppoli Restaurant in Pebble Beach 114 / the tasting panel / may 2013 Resorts. Despite being a fourth-generation Monterey native, this was Bindel's irst venture into the Gabilan Mountains, and she was duly impressed. For Bindel, Brosseau's "organic philosophy and minimalistic style" are also what makes the wines. "For me, it is all about inding wines that express vineyards—a sense of place, terroir." Ms. Bindel found terroirrelated sensations to be especially strong in the Brosseau 2010 Balconies ($25), an unorthodox yet compelling blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Chardonnay, tasting more of stones, sagebrush and honeysuckle than of any one grape. Our walk up and down the steep contours of this remote mountain vineyard also helped us understand why Bill Brosseau picks grapes before sugars reach excessive levels: in order to forge similarly austere contours in the bottle, such as in his sleek, peach skin–scented Brosseau 2010 Chardonnay ($25); the lithe, savory, wild cherryish Brosseau 2010 Pinot Noir ($35); and the low-key yet amazingly delineated blueberry/blackberry qualities in the Brosseau 2010 Syrah ($35). Bill Brosseau himself attributes the quality of his wines to "the high altitude, arid conditions and forgiving California climate," giving grapes plenty of opportunity to reach physiological maturity at the same time as sugar ripeness. It's also something that evolved from within. "Growing up in the vineyard distilled my passion for the site," reveals Brosseau, "and when I inally came of age, I realized that I could make the biggest impact as a winemaker producing wines that release the potential inherent in the vineyard." "Every sommelier loves a purist," Bindel says, "and Bill Brosseau is crafting coolclimate wines that are stunningly pure and elegant."

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