Domestic Selection: Colombard, 1989. Carmenet

In opening, let me first ask you to notice the small print section of this wine’s label which reads “A Chalone Property”. Any discus­sion of the Carmenet Vineyard must include a discourse on its parent company. Chalone Incor­porated is the only publicly-held company in the U.S. whose prin­cipal business is producing and marketing premium wines. Its ori­gins are with a group of small in­vestors. In 1960 they revived Monterey County’s Chalone Vine­yard, (vines were planted there at the turn of the century, but nothing was done with them), to produce legendary, sought-after wines.

The corporation’s leadership chose an unusual growth pattern. Rather than overexpanding the Chalone Vineyard, in 1980 they established a second vineyard, the Edna Valley Vineyard, in San Luis Obispo County. In 1981 they built a third, the Carmenet Vineyard in Sonoma County. Continuing the tradition, a few years ago they pur­chased the Acacia Winery in Napa.

Each facility acts as an inde­pendent operating unit with its own winemaker and staff. Chalone keeps the wineries small so that the respective Winemakers can give every barrel of wine the personal attention it needs. Jeffrey Baker, Winemaker and General Manager at Carmenet, has been in charge of production there since its inception. Dick Graff, one of Chalon Corporation’s early coordinators and its technical guru, oversees quality as Executive Winemaker.

Chalone has vinified Colom­bard since the early 1970s. Theirs is unquestionably the finest exam­ple of this wine made anywhere. Even with its track record for pro­ducing sound, crisp, dry white wines, Colombard, before Cha­lone, was a regular ‘Rodney Dan­gerfield’ of a vine (“no respect”). Brought to California from France’s Bordeaux and Cognac districts, “French Colombard” was used as a jug wine ingredient. Graff recognized that the superior quality fruit from Napa Valley’s oldest family-owned vineyard (the Saviez vineyard) would respond favorably to fermentation and ag­ing in French oak barrels. Here are the marvelous results.

The wine offers a bright gold­en hue with aromas of fresh flow­ers and green apples. It is rich and full on the palate, with the vanilla/ oak showing through in the dry, clean finish.

Serve chilled with chicken in a creamy tarragon sauce, or with a seafood/pasta/ cream-sauce dish.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now through 1992.

Rvwd by Larry Tepper

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