Lessons learned in California - Gavin Chanin

Published: 20-06-2017

Last week's sommelier trip to California was the chance to get dirty with soil, and to see whether winemakers were telling the truth about supposedly cool climate Californian vineyards. Standing on the Sanford and Benedict vineyard at midday last Tuesday, with the temperature at 68 degrees fahrenheit, has led to me to stop questioning their honesty.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-jennings/sanford-benedict-story-of_b_3350715.html

How is this possible I ask?

“Sam, stop getting hung up about the north and south thing, and just think about distance from the coast. It is all about the influence of the Pacific”. With each mile that you move inland, you can expect the temperature to rise by 1 degree fahrenheit.

Huge piles of chert and diatomaceous rock in the vineyard, leave me thankful that I wasn’t the one who had to clear Sanford and Benedict back in 1971. Whilst Sanford and Benedict has the advantage of vine age, the process of discovering the truly great terroirs of California makes this a thrilling time to be involved with the wines.

The Los Alamos Vineyard has long been a favourite of mine, but I blame google images for leading me astray on that one.

"Gavin how can Los Alamos produce the wines that it does, it makes the RN74 part of Clos Vougeot look like Cote Rotie?”

This time Gavin didn’t bother wasting his breath, and instead directs the hire car along the vineyard roads. The steepness of the slope, and exceptionally sandy soil meant that we had to desert the car well before we were anywhere close to Gavin’s six lines of vines. A walk well worth doing in the cooling Pacific breezes, as we were met with intense smells of wild sage, and the sight of a white owl fleeing from an old oak tree. The view of the Los Alamos valley was worth the walk, and the vineyard’s place in my heart is assured.

And all this before I have even got to the wines. If there is a lesson to have been learned here, then it is the aging potential of the wines, both white and red. Ten years on from wines that Gavin produced when only just out of shorts, there is vibrancy of fruit, great freshness and a developing complexity to the wines.

So exciting to think where the recent offerings will be in ten years' time.

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