Winery genealogy is sometimes convoluted. Suffice it to say that Chamisal Vineyards, in the
Edna Valley just south of San Luis Obispo, after a spell as Domaine Alfred, is once again
Chamisal Vineyards (following its purchase by Crimson Wine Group.) Winemaker Fintan du
Fresne benefits from 80 acres of vines, mainly of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and I myself
benefit from five of these, plus a delightful Pinot Gris. All the wines I received were 100%
The 2008 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Estate Pinot Gris, $24, is worth starting with,
since I found it unusually pure and refreshing. This wine was fermented in neutral French oak
barrels, given six months sur lie aging, and was put through no malolactic
fermentation in order to preserve acidity. And preserve they did. The medium straw colored
wine gives a focused nose of white flowers, lemon and apricot. The wine is bone dry, the
acidity forceful and yet not punchy, with palate notes of lemon, a touch of peach, orange and
lemon zest, all the fruit quite bright. The finish has a mineral edge and an essence of slightly
bitter lemon pit. Quintessentially refreshing.
The 2007 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Califa Pinot Noir, $60, sees a 14 month aging in
60% new French oak barrels. This wine is a clear, deep purple, with a violet rim. The nose is
subtle and sophisticated, with rosemary, marjoram, nutmeg and orange peel to guide the berry
and plum fruit. Medium bodied and dry in the mouth, the wine gave me palate notes of
cherry, black cherry, pomegranate, chocolate, vanilla and mocha. Acidity is tangy and a little
forward and, at 15.1%, the alcohol level took some adjustment. This finish is pleasant, with
chocolate and cocoa.
The 2007 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Califa Chardonnay, $38 is barrel fermented,
stirred on the lees a full eight months, sent through full malolactic fermentation, and barrel
aged six months in new French oak. The wine is a medium gold. Nose is fruity, with citrus,
mango, peach, pineapple, and golden delicious apple, adding some honeysuckle and vanilla.
The wine is dry with restrained acidity. Palate notes are varied and well integrated: peach,
citrus, mango, honey, toast, biscuit, sweet oak and vanilla. The wine finishes as a confection,
with toasty sweet oak, tropical fruit, pastry crust and a tinge of roasted walnut. Mouth-filling,
full-bodied, and everything it purports to be.
The 2007 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Estate Pinot Noir, $38, started with a good long
cold soak before native yeasts started the fermentation. The fermented wine as aged 14
months in French oak barrels, 40% new. A medium purple of great clarity, the wine brings
aromas of blackberry, black cherry, a dusty dried cherry, a touch of nutmeg and one of clove.
The wine is medium-bodied, with well placed acidity, good fruit extraction without too much
tanginess, and well rounded tannins. Fruit is a nice mix of warm ripe berry and plum. The
finish is long, showing ripe fruit but also good spice and the warmth of well-employed
The 2007 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Estate Chardonnay, $24, a medium clear straw, is
an amalgam of all seven Chardonnay clones Chamisal uses. Whole-cluster pressed after a
careful hand-harvest at night, the juice was fermented in French oak using a mixture of
yeasts. Eight months of malolactic fermentation on the lees followed, before a final six month
aging in French oak, 40% new. I like the philosophy. You have some oak and vanilla on the
nose, but very pure fruit leads: lemon, melon, and pineapple (just the stuff for a fruit salad).
The palate brings a creamy note with some baking spice, piecrust, or specifically, a lemon
pie, with nice caramelization on the just baked edges. The finish arranges a long stay for you
in this particular pastry shop.
The 2008 Chamisal Vineyards Central Coast Stainless Chardonnay, $18, is sourced from a
mix of Monterey Santa Lucia Highlands fruit and some from nearby San Luis Obispo County
vineyards. Whole cluster pressing, then cool-temperature tank fermentation, no oak at all, with
25% of the wine allowed malolactic fermentation. Good acidity in this wine, straight honest
fruit: golden delicious apple, peach, pear, lemon, pineapple, with touches of mango and
banana on the finish. Matter of taste; a refreshing wine, with stimulating fruit, but I would
have liked some oak contact, albeit restrained. The absence of that buttery character, so often
overdone, was a plus. The final word on this: great fruit.
Good Old World touches