Tuesday, November 01, 2005

WBW #15: Not a small challenge!

The fifteen edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday was proposed by Fatemeh of Gastronomie, and is about small production wines.

Well, thank you so much for giving us this challenge: finding a wine with a production of less than 250 cases! And there is a bonus if the producer's total production is under 1000 cases.

I decided to hunt for this rare bird at my local wine shop, Vino Locale, in Palo Alto. This is a friendly place that specializes in wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains. And there, I found what I was looking for: the 2001 Chaine d'Or Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains (199 cases) from Chaine d'Or Vineyards (400 cases total production) (do I get a bonus then?)

Chaine d'Or Vineyards is a minuscule winery producing around 400 cases of wine a year in Woodside, at the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The owners, Jerry and Anne Anderson, grow their own grapes in their two-plus acre vineyard, and sell their wines to their neighbors and members of the surrounding communities. With a farming and ranching background from his youth in Texas, Jerry is in charge of the vineyard. Anne, a graphic designer by profession, is in charge of the winery and is dedicated to a natural approach to winemaking.

The Chaine d'Or (Golden Chain) is actually the name that was given to the region by California winemakers more than one hundred years ago. They believed that the “lands of the Chaine d’Or had unsurpassed potential for the production of premium wines” (Like modern Edens by Charles L Sullivan)

The Chaine d'Or vineyard is at a location and elevation that place it within the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. This is a cool mountain vineyard at the northern end of the appellation, where the coastal fog cools down the nights during summertime, and where the growing season is much longer than in the Napa Valley. The vineyard is just under two acres in size and is planted with approximately 50% Chardonnay, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and smaller amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot that are used for blending. Both white and red wines are aged in French oak barrels; whites for about 9 months and reds for nearly two years.

The 2001 Chaine d'Or Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains (199 cases) is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with small quantities of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot to add complexity and smoothness to the wine. The wine is fermented with natural yeasts and then aged in 50% new barrels combined with one and two year old barrels. It recently won a Gold Medal at the 2005 Santa Cruz County Fair. I found the wine absolutely delicious. The color was dark purple, with an appealing nose of blackcurrants, pencil lead, and licorice. On the palate, it was full-bodied and smooth for its young age with polished tannins. The finish was well-balanced and elegant.

The winery also produces a Chardonnay. The Chardonnay grapes grow on a sunny hill at an altitude of 1400 feet above the fog. The grapes are fermented in Burgundian barrels and undergo malolactic fermentation. I found the 2004 Chaine d'Or Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains (200 cases) at Roberts Market in Woodside. I liked this wine a lot too. Showing a bright straw color, the wine had a fragrant, toasty, and nutty nose. The palate was medium-bodied and lively with notes of baked apple and butterscotch, followed by a clean and vibrant finish.

I have not been able to visit the winery yet. They are not open to the public and are not taking appointments during the harvest. But I am looking forward to eventually meeting the passionate Anne and Jerry Anderson.

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