Chalone Vineyard is named for a tribe of Costanoan Indians that once inhabited the remote area of the Gavilan Mountains to the east of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County. Dick Graff fell in love with the beauty and isolation of the land in the 1960's, but his main reasons for choosing this site were the topsoil and the climate, the "terroir." The original vineyard was planted in 1919 by a Frenchman looking for a site that resembled the soil in his native country. There were additional plantings in 1946, and the first commercial wines were produced by Philip Togni in 1960.
The hills where vines are planted and the winery now stands, exist in an extremely dry climate and the sparse, shallow soil is marbled with limestone with poor organic content. Temperatures can vary up to 60 degrees in one day. Summer months range from 40 degrees at night to 100 degrees at midday with as little as 7 inches of rainfall in a calendar year. However, these adverse farming conditions produce fruit characterized by intense, concentrated flavors and, in turn, wines of extraordinary depth, flavor and varietal characteristics, with layers of complexity that express themselves more fully the more mature they become. At Chalone, wine is perceived as coming from the vineyards and the function of the winemaker is to help the grapes achieve their maximum potential.
Winemaking techniques are based on traditional Burgundian methods and have been adapted, through careful experimentation, to the climate and soil conditions unique to the Chalone appellation. All of the white wines are fermented in French oak barrels in underground cellars, and the Pinot Noir is aged in the same French oak for 14 to 16 months.
Tasting Notes—November 1998