Big Rick Stuart
When it comes to wine, Monterey has euro chic
In 1919, Charles Tamm came upon remote hills in Monterey County that reminded him of his homeland in Burgundy, France. Homesick, he planted his French grape seeds in what he guessed, rightly, was similarly volcanic soil. Today, the Chalone Vineyard still grows grapes on those original vines, producing wines with the terroir of their ancestral lands. When Chalone brought its Chardonnay to the 1976 Judgment of Paris for a blind tasting, it beat its French competitors.
To visit Chalone’s tasting room is both to connect to that past – to drink the wine of those 100-year-old grapes – and to participate in the future of winemaking. As I learned on a recent trip to Monterey’s wine region, Chalone radically overhauled its process for making Pinot Noirs in 2016. It eliminated any maceration – a bold move in the wine world – to create a Pinot with less tannin and more acid that it expects to age beautifully. The process is far from settled, though, and I had the chance to eavesdrop on their ongoing debate.
Chalone Peak Vineyard