Archive for the ‘Chalk Hill’ Category

Diamond Oaks – 155

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Do_signDiamond Oaks is a relative new-comer to the Napa Valley wine scene. Located on the edge of a mountain up the Oakville Grade, the building facilities was once better known as Vichon (a Mondavi project) – and, for a short while, La Famiglia (another Mondavi project).

Do_entranceIndian-born Dinesh Maniar is the current proprietor. Having already acquired numerous Napa and Sonoma vineyards, the acquisition of this property from the Mondavis was a jewel in his wine-bedecked crown. By all accounts from those who work with him, Maniar is an introspective, unassuming gentleman who has made some very impressive improvements to the property.

Do_tasting_room_1Do_tasting_room_2The tasting room, when it was La Famiglia, was known for the hand-painted wall-sized mural. That was the only aspect of the original hospitality area that Maniar retained. The building was slightly retrofitted to accommodate much-needed windows for light, new marble floors, and elegant lighting fixtures (selected by Dinesh himself).

Do_picnic_areaOf special note is the picturesque picture area. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning views of the valley, for a mere $30.00, the winery will reserve a table, provide a bottle of wine and glasses, and place a checkered tablecloth to await your culinary delight. Corkpulls are strategically dangled from the trees, just in case you forget…

2001 Chalk Hill Chardonnay – Maniar owns 95 acres of Chalk Hill vineyards. This 100% malo chard is fruit forward, with intense lemon and tropical fruit aromas. Initial flavors are fruit forward with lemon and a hint of cream. The finish shows nuts, oak, and a touch of butter. $29.00

2001 Reserve Carneros Chardonnay - Another 100% malo, but this one has seen 100% French oak. Rich, full, layered offering with a tropical bouquet surrounding a core of butterscotch. Flavors dance between lemon meringue and clean pear. $39.00

2003 Carneros Pinot Noir – Simple aromas of cherry, licorice, and earth in the nose. Bigger fruit flavors explodes in the mouth, counter to the thinner bouquet. Tight and young, earth and licorice dominate. $19.00

2002 Silver Carneros Merlot – Deep tones of green olive, rich earth, and some cherry. Richer fruit flavors of solid dark fruit, a mid-palate of toast, finishes with a tease of eucalyptus. $17.00

2002 Hira Ranch Merlot, Carneros – 70% French oak, 20% of that is new – the other 30% is American oak. Dark chocolate and tobacco qualities in the nose. Initially soft and supple upon entry, dark berry and earthy qualities become rich and complex on the finish. $29.00

2003 Cabernet, Alexander Valley – (Wine Club only). A pre-release tasting is still a bit green with tons of rustic herbs and cherry. Gobs of chocolate mint on the nice, lingering finish. No price.

Diamond Oaks ~ 1595 Oakville Grade ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 707-948-3000

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery – 138

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

01_ch_signHere again is a blog installment about which I feel a tad guilty because it is a somewhat half-assed installment in actually documenting a winery. Well, perhaps not entirely half-assed, but my reasons for going to Chalk Hill Vineyards and Estates was not entirely to review it as a winery, but to attend their now-famous auction event, Imagine which raises funds for children’s charities. I will be writing the entire event up for another publication, so it will only be briefly mentioned here.

02_ch_wineryThe Chalk Hill estate lies on a massively sprawling chunk of over 1,200 acres off a series of small dirt roads in Healdsburg. It not only includes vineyards and winemaking facilities, but is also known as an equestrian center as part of the passion of its owners, Peggy and Fred Furth. Arriving at the estate, I was driven in a tourist van past what I was told was the winery area (hence, the far-away picture).

03_ch_bldgThe Imagine fundraiser was held in a building that is actually an indoor riding facility, used mostly used for dressage. Here, however, the dirt floor was covered and the party set for approximately 500 people; on one end of this open-aired, vaulted structure, a was stage set for the performance by the Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Ponti, Jr. (Sophia’s little boy), and the other end, a stage set with an impressive audio-visual equipment to be utilized for the afternoon’s auction. This festivities were an afternoon gala which closely rivals the famous Napa Valley Auction in its celebrity watching, but also notable for the culinary offerings by Chalk Hill in-house chef, Didier Ageorges.

11_ch_orange_caviarI mention food only in passing as the luncheon was coordinated for service of only three of Chalk Hill’s eleven wines. I would love an opportunity to taste their entire line-up as some interesting varietals are being bottled; besides the standard Cab/Merlot/Chard triumvirate, Chalk Hill’s wines include a rarely-seen Carmenere, a Petite Verdot, a Malbec, and a Semillon (just to name a few). There is always a distinct advantage to tasting wines when well-paired with food, so I will add in a few additional photographs of the amazing hors d’oeuvres that were served, partly because they are so pretty and partly because they were so exceptional.

07_ch_lobster_tempura2001 Pinot Gris – Golden straw color with a faint hint of grass and floral notes in the pale wine. A swirl produced brighter clean lemon with some white melon. The acidity was distinct with a pleasant sharp tang and a supple, clean finish. It paired especially well with the Lobster and Ginger Tempura as well as the Golden Trout Caviar on Blini.

05_ch_tuna_tartare2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley – Well-integrated bouquet of cat piss and grass. (This is a good cat-piss wine, trust me! It is not meant in a derogatory fashion.) Tangy upon mouth entry but blossoms into velvet and cream with a little tongue warmth. Slightly mineral in the mid-palate, showing depth and balance. I especially liked this wine with the Tuna Tartare and Pickled Seaweed on Toasts.

16_ch_beef1998 Verité – An unknown blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, although the label indicated it was 62% Sonoma and 38% Napa grapes. With a wine of slight age, this was a fabulous example of depth and complexity, at first displaying elegant wild mushrooms and earthiness layered with fresh cranberry, cassis, and blueberry. As it opened, the intensely rich jammy nose produced some mineral tones and sweet black licorice. The mouth feel was viscous and smooth, bringing forth the dark fruit but also a bit of candied berry on the back palate. Long, detailed finish that changed and developed.

No prices were available on the wines. A future visit to Chalk Hill is on my radar and must be by appointment only.

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery ~ 10300 Chalk Hill Road ~ Healdsburg ~ Sonoma County ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-838-4306