The Event
Chalone Wine Group Dinner
© by Sheral Schowe
Chalone On April 5, a wine tasting extraordinaire was held at River's Effortless Dining Restaurant in Sandy. Six wines were selected by the Wasatch Academy of Wine from Chalone Wine Group's Monterey, Carneros, and Sonoma wineries for an incredible dining experience.

Chalone has a history of nearly forty years, which began at the foot of the Gavilan Mountains in Monterey County. It has grown to include wineries from Washington to Central California and a partnership with Bordeaux's Chateau Duhart-Milon, a fourth-growth Pauillac estate adjacent to Chateau Lafite.

The flight of six wines began with Chalone Vineyard Pinot Blanc 1998 ($23.75) This is an amazing Pinot Blanc which quickly warmed up the room with compliments on the intense fruit flavors of juicy, ripe peaches, apples, and lemon. The citrussy acids are balanced with a baked bread quality, vanilla, and toasty oak for a full palate and a finish that goes on forever. The aromas are floral with orange blossoms, wet stone, and minerals. For many of the guests who had not experienced Pinot Blanc, this is one that they will definitely want to repeat in the future. This was a perfect selection for the antipasto presentation of shrimp and salmon cakes with roasted red pepper sauce, grilled vegetables, cheeses, herbed foccacia, dry-cured ham, dry salamis, and spicy Spanish olives.

Acacia 1998 Chardonnay ($21.20) was received with knowing nods of approval and comments such as, "Oh, you're serving the Acacia? That's my favorite Chardonnay." This 100% Chardonnay is one of my favorites as well, made by an extremely talented and personable winemaker, Michael Richmond. This particular vintage has a lot of ripe yellow fruits such as mangos, nectarines, and peaches as well as a little baked apple. It has full mouth feel, with ripe fruit flavors, a creamy smooth texture, and a sweet, spicy finish. Seabass, with vanilla saffron buerre blanc was a delectable match for this wine.

Carmenet Reserve Sauvignon Meritage 1998 ($17.45) is 68% Sauvignon Blanc and 32% Semillon. The grapes are grown in the Paragon Vineyards near San Luis Obispo, close to the Pacific Ocean. This wine has been aged for 10 months in new Bordeaux barrels with complete malolactic fermentation to soften the Sauvignon Blanc acidity and add more complexity than you will ever find in this varietal. The aromas are of fresh herbs, citrus, and melon with a little fig and honey. The flavors are rich and complex, creating an extremely food-friendly wine that will compliment spicy or peppery dishes as well as cold shellfish, grilled fish, and cheeses with a high acid balance such as Chevre. River's famous vegetable lasagna was an excellent menu selection for this wine.

The 1998 Acacia Pinot Noir ($24.10) comes from eleven vineyard sites in the Carneros district, between Napa and Sonoma. This particular vintage is more concentrated and complex in flavor than other vintages, with plum, dark cherry, and blackberry. The aromas are spicy cinnamon and clove with a little smoke. It is a beautiful wine, with a silky soft texture, capable of a little aging. This delicious Pinot Noir was served with grilled salmon for a spectacular pairing.

Jade Mountain Mourvedre 1997 ($23.75) is a Rhone varietal that was planted in California's Contra Costa County over one hundred years ago. The Evangehlo Vineyards are producing one of the finest Mourvedre varietal wines in America. Most of the guests had not previously tasted this particular varietal, let alone a one hundred-year-old version. It was astoundingly well received. "I've never had a Mourvedre before. This is delicious!" was a common response. The deep, rich, dark berry fruit preserves in the flavor are complimented with aromas of spice, similar to the best berry cobbler you have ever tasted. The Mourvedre was selected to accompany the Ahi tuna with a fresh ground pepper crust, served with an Asian plum, ginger sauce. The sweetness of the wine was a perfect balance for the spiciness of the crust and well as a compliment for the sauce.

Our last wine of the flight was Carmenet Moon Mountain Reserve 1996 ($39.90) is a Bordeaux-style blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot from the Mayacamas Mountains. The red volcanic soils of Mount Veeder, 2000' elevation, and bright sunlight above the cooling fog creates perfect growing conditions for these varietals. This is a big, bold, complex wine full of black cherry and cassis and spices that fill the palate. The soft tannins and subtle acids create a velvety and long finish. Although delicious and approachable now, some cellaring may make this wine all the more beguiling. Although the most popular choice of the evening was a medium rare tenderloin, it was the wine that the serious red wine drinkers returned to again and again to enjoy throughout the evening.

April 11, 2000

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