Chalone Vineyard: Monterey’s Original Winery

Melissa Hobson 0 Comments

Mr. Wine Cutie is the best. I’ll admit it. He’s the reason I’m writing, and one of the reasons my taste in wine transformed from Robert Mondavi Private Selection to Stag’s Leap Cask 23.

When we started down our path into wine, we watched a movie about the 1976 Judgement of Paris, called Bottle Shock. This movie was obviously dramatized. However, the movie spoke to Mr. Wine Cutie and he began reading books on the 1976 Judgement of Paris itself and learning about all of the wineries that were judged. We’ve been to a few over the years, like Stag’s Leap, Mayacamas and Ridge. Our goal is to eventually visit all of the participant wineries, one of which is Chalone Vineyard.

At the Paris tasting in 1976, Chalone’s 1974 chardonnay ranked third place out of the ten white wines tasted. All eleven of the judges ranked either Chateau Montelena, the overall winner, or Chalone Vineyard first. In a recreation of the Paris tasting, Chalone won first place at the San Francisco Wine Tasting of 1978 against the exact same competition.

Ed. note: I was into the Judgement of Paris even before that movie, after visiting Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for the first time and then realizing that I’d already tasted at another, Ridge.

Chalone Vineyard was founded in 1966 and located on the Gavilan plateau amongst the Pinnacle mountains. Their soil is primarily limestone, as it sits on an extinct volcano. Chalone’s logo actually features the Pinnacle mountains. They produce all different types of wine, however they’re famous for their chardonnay.

Traveling to Chalone from the South Bay is pretty simple as it’s just Route 101 practically the whole way. Once you get off the freeway, the level of difficulty changes. Though it’s still simple, it’s not a drive I’d recommend taking a Lyft or Uber, as the public road ends a mile or two before the winery’s tasting room.

Upon entering Chalone’s property, we find ourselves on a gravel road. We finally zig-zagged through the driveway to find parking. Luckily for us, it looks as if it’s a quiet day at the winery, there’s not many other cars in the parking lot. We park and walk up the stairs to the tasting room.

The air conditioner hits us in the face as soon as we open the door, and we couldn’t be more excited to feel the cool air. The tasting room has a homey feel. Chalone swag is spread throughout, ready for purchase including handmade spice bowls and even a cheese board.

We walk over to the tasting bar and order two tastings and a cheese board. That’s right, Cuties, they have a cheese board for purchase that pairs amazingly well with the wine.

We decide to sit at the bar for our tasting. While waiting for Mr. Wine Cutie, I begin talking to the gentleman sitting next to me, Richard, who introduces himself as the vineyard manager at Chalone of over twenty-seven years. We also meet Ariana, the tasting hostess, and Christopher, the winery manager.

We start our tasting with a 2017 chardonnay that’s made with the musqué clone of chardonnay as opposed to the more common Wente clone. What’s so cool, is that Richard found the chardonnay clone on the property. He says that it must have been planted back in the ‘70s, and that Chalone now has about ninety-eight acres planted. The chardonnay smells like apples, with a hint of butter. However, thankfully for this Cutie, there was no butter on the palate. It tasted like apple and was paired with a buttery brie. The brie complimented the acidity of the wine so well, it was creamy and delicious with the wine.

We move onto another chardonnay, the 2016 Chardonnay Reserve. Chalone produced only six barrels of this wine, with no malolactic fermentation and aged one and a half years in neutral french oak. The wine has a creamy smell to it, with some apple. It tastes like cream and zesty lemon. The wine is well balanced and paired with goat cheese. The cheese and wine pairing is really well done again.

Christopher describes our next wine, a 2017 chenin blanc that was originally hand planted back in 1919. That’s before prohibition. In fact, he says that their chenin blanc may be the oldest in California. The nose is all citrus and the palate lemon, with a little residual sugar. Chalone has delicious white wine and just as interesting stories behind each wine.

A rosé is next. It is mostly grenache cut with some pinot noir and paired with manchego cheese. Moving along, we taste the 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve. The pinot noir grapes are the oldest in Monterey County, with only twelve barrels produced. The pinot noir smells like jam and raspberries and tastes like licorice, raspberries and some spice. The pinot noir is paired with English cheddar cheese, which was divine.

The last two wines are a 2016 grenache paired with pecorino romano and a 2015 syrah paired with an aged gouda. I asked Christopher about how he picked up his talent pairing cheese with wine, as the pairings have been one of the best I've ever tasted at a winery. His response was the best, “I read a book.” I mean, okay, mic drop!

We spent a couple of hours tasting at Chalone and had a great time talking to Richard, picking his brain and learning more about his vines and the other vineyards that he had worked in the past. Christopher and Ariana were gracious winery hosts. Christopher can plate a delicious cheese board and knew his wine inside and out, demonstrating his passion.

Until next time Cuties, keep tasting!

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Melissa Hobson

I’m Melissa, a.k.a. Wine Cutie. I’m originally from the Philadelphia Area and moved to the Bay Area in 2016 with my now husband and doggo Jedi. These are my Wine Adventures.