Wineries that leave an impression deeply instruct you on your relationship with wine— Why you love it, why you chase certain varietals and regions, and if you’re in the industry why you elected this path rather than something safe, regular, expected. I pulled into the parking lot, after the extended visual driveway, and didn’t allow myself any expectations. I put myself in the tourist’s shoes, visiting wine country for the first time and just stopping wherever I stopped. Walking up the stairs I had to turn around, look at the hill and the mise en scèn that held my scope with the building behind me. Turning around again toward the door, I walked in and was ready for whatever would be offered. Again… first time. Tourist. New to this whole wine thing.
Taryn, the cheerily informative hostess poured two Sauvignon Blancs. First in a side-by-side, the ’15 Sauvignon Blanc Musque. Then, ‘15 Estate. Both showed their vocals and sang how they wanted to, disclosing both texture and dynamic urgency through olfactory and tactile frolics. Tropical, clean, not one-sided and simplistic, or rushed in treatment. Both had texture and weight, a certain rhythm, both collective and individualized, that I’m not used to with SB.— I know, I’m sounding too “industry”, too accustomed to wine and writing about it… this objective lean is more challenging than I measured. How ‘bout I try both.
Chardonnays, both, boasted and confirmed the California chord of oak integration and the creamy, or buttery, angularity. But, I tasted Chardonnay. Not a bastardization. I could taste the Burgundian-American syncopation. To someone somewhat used to Chardonnay, in the industry, this will teach you something nouveau in that it demonstrates that balance can be demonstrated, impressively actuated. To someone new to this world, and Chalk Hill Road, and Winery, it professes that you have options. But I will say, both were clean even with their oak and malolactic visibility, while avoiding the malo-mummy fat that’s cocooned the white varietal in stereotypes and avoidance.
I told Taryn that I only wanted to try two reds, her election which were to be poured. This was both the wine writer and tourist character speaking, as I had to get back to my lodging, and wanted to be moderated in my glass-tilts. She chose her favorite, the 2013 Clara’s Vineyard Red Blend and a 2014 Zinfandel that was beyond dazzling and prophetic. Tourist Mike doesn’t know much about Zin. Well, a boon I came to Chalk Hill, as this interpretation of the sometimes overdone grape type showed a palate precision that even the most lauded and anointed Napa Cab house would study, envy, try to mimic but lose breath. I saw both reds as offerings intended on teaching sippers, whomever they are— seasoned or first-steppers, about structure, depth, and artful helixing and synergy of both varietal innateness and winemaker signature.
Driving away, I was taught. And I couldn’t get out of my visitor mode, my first-time-to-wine-country strut. I thought like a tourist…. I was a tourist… I was shown what entrancing wine offerings are, that balance and firm sensory landing can prove concurrent. Anyone, no matter their relationship with wine, show walk up those steps, taste through the flight. And if Taryn’s extending her arm to situate a piquant puddle in the bowl, then you’ll be both taught but eased with dexterous hospitality. So… I’m different after my visit. I’m propelled, closer to wine itself, a more amoureux with wine, and show what it feels like, looks like, tastes like when all’s done right. More than right…. With unusual acuity and personification.