by Fred McMillin
for August 21, 1997

I Found My Thrill on Old Chalk Hill


  • Chalk Hill was declared a separate, unique viticultural area within the Russian River Valley by the federal government on Nov. 21, 1983. Its name is derived from the layer of light, 200-million-year-old volcanic ash that covers the area.

    ...by Fred Furth, Proprietor of the Chalk Hill Winery

  • Chalk Hill is one of the few California wineries that has the grapes to make a Sauvignon Blanc that emulates Bordeaux's Graves, a fine white wine with chalky, earthy elements.

    ...by wine authority Dan Berger, L.A. Times

  • Chalk Hill has had Sauvignon Blanc as its brightest star in nearly every vintage.

    ...by Bob Thompson in his "Wine Atlas of California"

The Rest of the Story: Those exceptional grapes are grown by Vineyard Manager Mark Lingenfelder. He says that Chardonnay is the winemaker's grape; it lacks a dominant varietal character, so the winemaker adds character with oak contact, malolactic fermentation, etc. NOT SO WITH SAUVIGNON BLANC. It has a strong aroma and flavor, which the GRAPE GROWER can manipulate hopefully to make herbs, not grass.

Mark's Blanc vines grow on the highest part of the sloping vineyard; excess foliage is removed by hand to maximize sun exposure. He strives to get the grapes completely ripe...so 1995 was his kind of year. The weather permitted an extra two weeks on the vine Ripening was even and "ideal." The result is another one of those "brightest star" Chalk Hill Blancs. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

1995 Sauvignon Blanc, Appellation—Chalk Hill
Chalk Hill Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Contact—V.P. Jean Arnold, (707)838-4306
Winemaker—Bill Knuttel. Bill had a lot to do with the success of this wine, too, adding 16% Semillon and much tender, loving care.

Postscript: The Name Game. Chalk Hill is the name of both the winery and the district that contains it. It's located at the warmer, eastern end of the Russian River Valley. Fred Furth owns some 1,100 of its 21,000 acres.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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