Perched high in the remote Gavilan Mountain Range, 1,800 feet above Salinas Valley, Chalone Vineyard is a one-of-a-kind wine estate. This is extreme wine country with rare limestone soils, limited rainfall and wide diurnal temperature swings. The unique terroir produces wine that imparts a subtle mineral character with compelling fruit and richness. By California standards, Chalone Vineyard's grape yields are small (less than three tons per acre), but the grapes from this vineyard achieve homogeneity of ripeness and display intense character and superb balance.
The new Pinot Noir clones, planted in 1997, are really showing their potential with the 2005 vintage. The wine is darkly colored and amazingly opulent, with fantastic fruit intensity leaning toward red cherries and strawberries. Firm in body, with big tannins, this wine has amazing texture and length of finish. The ten months it spent in French oak integrated the fruit and tannins into a truly hedonistic glass of wine.
Pair with roasted turkey, seared duck with cherry sauce, grilled salmon and wild mushroom risotto.
Chalone Vineyard Winery
Perched high on the western slopes of the remote Gavilan Mountain Range on Mount Chalone, 1,800 feet above California's Salinas Valley, Chalone Vineyard represents a singular convergence of terroir and winemaking. Originally planted in 1919, the vineyard's ability to yield benchmark Chardonnay was discovered when Chalone Wine Group co-founder, Dick Graff, made his first vintage there in 1966. The time-honored Burgundian techniques he introduced complement the fruit's character to create the bouquet and flavors that are Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay's hallmarks. Chalone Vineyard's other estate-grown wines are equally distinctive. Chalone also produces Pinot Noir, Syrah, Pinto Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
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The largest of California's wine growing regions, the Central Coast produces the majority of California's wine. The district sprawls out, covering most of the vineyard land between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Smaller sub-AVAs of the Central Coast include Monterey Bay, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and many others.
Grape varieties range from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Some Central Coast wine is generic, bulk wine that contributes to the high production numbers of the area. But many winemakers and wineries, particular in some of the smaller AVAs, are small production artisans, creating unique and high-quality wine. The great thing about the Central Coast is its diversity - you're able to find a number of grape varieties and styles at a number of different price points.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.