CLONINGER CELLARS was founded in 1988 by Loren Cloninger and Joe Boskovich, farmers in the Salinas Valley of California's Monterey County. They recognized that the rocky benchland, which had been unproductive lettuce ground because of its poor soil, was perfectly suited for growing Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Afternoon winds from the Monterey Bay cool the area in the summer and slow the ripening process. This results in especially rich and flavorful grapes. The Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in neighboring Carmel Valley, where the warmer afternoons are more suited to this variety. Winemaker Dave Paige uses traditional, low-tech methods intended to show off the richness and intensity of the fruit. The Chardonnay is barrel fermented in French oak and the lees are stirred for several months to enhance the texture and complexity. The Pinot noir and Cabernet are fermented in half-ton bins, punched down by hand, and pressed in a small basket press. This is the hard way to make reds and results in fewer gallons per ton than modern equipment, but the richer extraction of flavor and mouthfeel is worth the effort. The goal at Cloninger is to produce elegant, full-bodied wines that are complex enough to show off to friends and balanced enough to complement tonight's dinner.
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