After about twenty years in the construction industry, Peter Hay-wood’s tolerance for night meetings had waned. He longed to “get back to the land”. So, he undertook a search for the perfect vineyard. In 1973 he located, in Sonoma County, a valley of great potential, covered with oaks and brush. He judged, from the harshness of the ground and the sparse nature of growth, that if a vineyard could once be established there, it would be hardy, strong in character and limited in production. It would produce great grapes for great wines. Early mapmakers, in designating landmarks, had written in the word “chamizal”, meaning thicket of chamiso, or hardwood. Haywood dubbed the region the “Chamizal Valley” and his ranch “Los Chamizal Vineyards”.
Haywood made his first wine in 1977. He and his daughter squeezed their initial crop through a stainless steel screen, by hand. They fermented the small amount of juice in a five gallon water cooler jug. When the fermentation appeared complete, they bottled the wine. Of the scant 20 bottles produced, 19 exploded! The precious survivor was carefully decanted, filtered and re-bottled. It now rests quietly in Haywood’s private collection, a priceless memento of California winemaking history.
The first commercial crush for this winery was in 1980 and Fume Blanc has been a specialty of theirs since 1985. While originally from France’s Loire and Bordeaux regions, Sauvignon Blanc (“Fume Blanc” is a synonym) has been planted in practically every vineyard district on earth. About 35% of Haywood’s Sauvignon Blanc grapes are barrel fermented. This technical step effectively reduces the controversial “grassy” character so often encountered in wines produced from this varietal. I say “controversial” because many people (myself not included) actually like the outspokenly grassy, herbaceous taste which this ubiquitous grape often provides.
Our example has a clear, pale green-yellow color and a fresh, fruity, appetizing scent with just a mild hint of grassiness. It is full, smooth and dry on the palate with nice lemon, lime, and plum fruit flavors. These are tempered and balanced by a “creamy” taste imparted by the oak. It finishes clean and dry.
Serve chilled with grilled chicken, mixed seafood entrees or fresh oysters warmed in a mild curry sauce.
Cellaring Notes: Drink now through 1993.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper