Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chamisal Vineyards Pinot Noir

I've been drinking a lot of California pinot noir lately, from appellations all over the state. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting up several blog entries that explore the wines I've been sent to try.

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First up are the pinot's from the producer formerly known as Domaine Alfred, now known as Chamisal Vineyards. Back in 1973, Chamisal Vineyards was the first to be planted in the Edna Valley, a cool-climate region located just south of San Luis Obispo. This could be considered the far-northern Central Coast area, or the extreme-southern Northern California area. The Edna Valley AVA was established in 1982 and comprises of about 22,400 acres. Among the grapes planted there are pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, grenache, and syrah.

Winemaker Fintan du Fresne takes great care in showcasing the area's cool climate and clay soils. He states that "we have an extremely long, moderate growing season that lends itself to the production of big, cool-climate styled wines." I suspect that he is aiming to balance ripeness with structure, to create full flavored wines that aren't total oak or fruit-bombs.

2009 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley "Califa" Selection: A pleasing bouquet of white pepper, grape stem, bramble, and black cherry. I like the balance in this pinot noir's nose, it smells ripe but not over-ripe thanks to the pepper and bramble notes. On the palate it's rich but balanced, with raspberries, black cherries, and baking spices. The firm tannin is a welcome addition to the ripe fruit flavors, bringing a cohesiveness to the texture and flavors. Exotic spices come in on the mid-palate, creating a good balance. The finish is light but structured, ending on a note of bright red cherry and oak. SRP $60. 14.7% abv.

2009 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Estate Pinot Noir: On the nose, subtle spices and cherries galore, along with a hint of nail polish remover showing perhaps an excessive amount of ethyl acetate (EA). Cola and rhubarb come out too, along with some sturdy oak aromas. Right now more oak is showing than I'd like but perhaps in a few more years some spices and peppery notes will come through. The palate is bursting with very ripe red fruits, red licorice, herbs, and some subtle baking spices that start in on the mid-palate. The lightness is welcome, with vibrant acidity and firm tannin making this a versatile pinot noir. Easy to drink, accessible, but something of a tough sell at the srp of $38. 14.5% abv.

Both wines were big, bold pinot noirs, though the Chamisal Estate pinot did have that distracting ethyl acetate fault. Still, if you're a fan of the California-style, those that are more extracted and perhaps riper fruit than Oregon or Burgundy, these are wines I suspect you'd enjoy. While they may not have the cachet or a Wind Gap, Cobb, or Williams-Seylem pinot, they're much easier to find. Food pairings would be grilled salmon, hanger steak, and coq au vin.

It's apparent that Fintan du Fresne takes the pinot noir seriously at Chamisal Vineyards, and I like how he's going for big-style wine yet one that's got structure too. I hope to continue tasting this producer over the next few years, especially now with 2010's starting to be released.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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