Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chalone Vineyard Monterey County Pinot Noir, 2005

Chalone has an excellent long-standing reputation for producing high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Located in the Gavilan Mountains, 1800 feet above the Salinas Valley, the estate has limestone soils similar to those in Burgundy and has been recognized with its own appellation--Chalone AVA. The estate wines are appropriately priced at $35 to $40 a bottle. As a result, I always do a doublte take when I see a wine such as this one on the shelves for $12 to $15. It's not Chalone Estate, of course, but is made from less reputed vineyards elsewhere in Monterey County. In this case, I bought with the assumption that the Chalone staff would know how to pick the right Pinot grapes and vinify them as they should be vinified.

This wine was clearly selected to represent the pretty rather than the austere face of Pinot Noir. It's a deep ruby red with lush aromas of red berries and purple flowers. Ripe and lovely. Now comes some spice--mostly cinnamon--but not enough to overwhelm the upfront fruit. In my view, this wine is more similar to the Ninth Island Tasmania Pinot than the ones from Goldeneye, Toulouse or Bink described below. On the palate, the spicy, earthy qualities of Pinot Noir take over, but there is still a nice red berry quality. I had a few bottles of this wine right after its release, and I would say that this bottle, at age seven, is none the worse for age. I wouldn't keep it much longer, though.

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