The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2012

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Page 119 of 152

A A natural wonderland, the 8,600 acre AVA, oficially created in 1982, is tucked high above the Salinas Valley and accessed by a single, narrow road that climbs the rugged terrain. The benchland is arid and hot, sitting just above the maritime fog that hovers over the Salinas Valley. In the evening the mercury dives, causing enormous diurnal temperature swings of up to 50 degrees. This allows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to ripen fully, while at the same time maintaining a bright, natural acidity that has allowed many of the wines at Chalone Vineyard to age for decades. Chalone Vineyard, once the only planting in the AVA, has a long history of producing distinctive and highly sought-after fruit. Long before the winery was established, fruit was sold to commercial producers, including Georges Latour of Beaulieu Vineyards. Property owner William Silvear planted what���s now known as the Lower Vineyard in 1946, today the oldest producing Pinot Noir vineyard in North America. But it wasn���t until the late 1960s, after legendary winemaker Dick Graff purchased the estate, that Chalone was recognized for producing paramount wines. Despite the dificult conditions���all water had to be trucked in and not until the early 1980s was there electricity���Graff���s wine���s quickly got critical recognition. Chalone���s prestigious reputation was conirmed in 1976 when the 1974 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay took third place in the historic ���judgement of Paris��� tasting. Walking through the oldest part of the vineyard with winemaker Robert Cook of Chalone Vineyard and Michael Michaud, former winemaker at Chalone and owner of Michaud Vineyard, one can���t help but feel humbled by the property���s historical signiicance and natural landscape. Michaud fell in love with Chalone, believing the site���s unique geology and climate to be ideal for growing grapes that produce wines of distinction and longevity. Hired at Chalone Vineyard in 1979, Michaud planted his property on the northern end of the appellation in 1981. After spending nearly 20 years as head winemaker at Chalone Vineyard, he left in 1998 to pursue his own brand. Having spent most of his career on the benchland, he���s clearly committed to preserving the integrity of the wines he makes here. Michaud proclaims, ���I abhor making wines with no personality; it���s as if their spirit has been worked out of them.��� After tasting through the wines of both Michaud and Chalone, we cannot help but agree that these wines represent a pure expression of the site and soul of the appellation. Tasting The Chalone Ava Michaud Vineyard 2010 Marsanne, Chalone ($43) Produced from cuttings sourced from the reputable Chave vineyard in Hermitage, the wine dances with exotic aromas of Asian pear, lemongrass and ripe honeydew melon. The wine was aged for 11 months in neutral barrel, adding weight to the midpalate that balances the wine���s racy acidity. A beautiful wine to cut through the richness of fall dishes, such as a curried kabocha squash soup. Michaud Vineyard 2006 Pinot Noir Chalone ($40) , Aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak, the wine is beautifully open and expressive. Soft and velvety with hints of clove and baking spice spreading into lavors of dark cherries and veal stock on the mid palate. The wine inishes with tones of orange pekoe tea and raspberry. A beautiful statement of the Chalone Appellation; the bottle age allows the lavors to meld together. Chalone Vineyard 2011 Estate Grown Chenin Blanc, Chalone ($25) Planted in 1919, these vines continue to produce intense, concentrated fruit with harvests averaging 0.8 to 1.2 tons per acre. Floral aromatics abound in the nose, with notes of honeysuckle and spicy coriander. The palate is lean and dry, yet has an indescribable weight to it; lavors of fresh baked lemon bars with powder sugar come to mind, inishing with a mouth-sucking minerality. Chalone Vineyard 2010 Estate Grown Chardonnay, Chalone ($26) The 2010 vintage was ideal for Chalone, as the cooler temperatures allowed for the lavors to ripen slowly and the acidity to stay strong and focused. The wine has everything one could want from a barrel-aged Chardonnay���classic aromas of green apple and toast, a balanced palate with voluptuous lavors of cr��me br��l��e and pie crust. The texture is silky and lingers on the tongue, and is balanced by strong acidity upholding the oak and keeping the wine from becoming too heavy. november 2012 / the tasting panel / 119

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