Background and History
In 2011 I first tasted Chanin Wine Company wines from 2008 and 2009 as well as some barrel samples of 2010s. In September 2011, my first article on Chanin Wine Company also featured Au Bon Climat and Qupé and was entitled The Holy Trinity of Wineries (to read the article click here ). Here is the introduction to that article:
These three wineries are housed in one facility in Santa Maria. Au Bon Climat Winery (which means“a well exposed vineyard”) was founded in 1982 by Jim Clendenen and Adam Tolmach. Qupé Winery was also started in 1982 by Bob Lindquist. Chanin Wine Company was started in 2007 by Gavin Chanin.
Au Bon Climat and Qupé are pioneer wineries in the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez area. Chanin is the new kid on the block. Here’s the connection. Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Adam Tolmach, and Tony Chanin started at Zaca Mesa Winery. Zaca Mesa was built in 1978 and was one of the earliest wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Tony Chanin is the nephew of my great long time friend Ed Lazarus who was one of the original editors of the old Underground Wineletter and is a contributing editor today to the new Underground. To learn more about wine, Tony and Jim started coming to some of the tastings we used to do for the old Underground. We would gather up the wines we wanted to taste, get some food, set a time and a place and then invite people to attend and share the cost. We did the tastings at different homes, but mostly at places like The Wine House in West Los Angeles still there and going strong today (www.winehouse.com ), Red Carpet in Glendale (www.redcarpet.wine.com ), and Lawry’s California Center in Los Angeles (sadly closed about 10 years ago). These wine tasting and food events were widely attended by many different people and Tony and Jim were amongst the youngest participants.
Later, as mentioned earlier, Jim would go on to start Au Bon Climat with Adam Tolmach and at the same time Bob Lindquist founded Qupé. Tony left and went back to join his family’s business. In 1991 Adam left Au Bob Climat to start Ojai vineyards. Then, in 2004 after graduating from high school, Gavin Chanin, Tony’s son, started working summers at Au Bon Climat. He worked there during his college years (except for 2007 when he worked at wineries on South Africa and New Zealand). In 2007 he started Chanin Wine Company using a portion of the winery shared by Au Bon Climat and Qupé. In 2009 after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a major in art, he started working full time at Au Bon Climat and Qupé. What Jim, Bob, and Gavin all have in common is a dedication to making wine with minimal intervention. This winemaking trio (as well as Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards – watch for my upcoming article) (To read that article click here ) makes wines that are balanced and develop and evolve over a long period of time. This is a trend that follows the philosophy of Paul Draper and Ridge Vineyards. (To read an article on Ridge Vineyards click here) . Continuing the links between Au Bon Climat, Qupé, aand Chanin Wine Company, here is what I had to say about Adam Tolmach and Ojai Vineyards in the article referenced above: Adam is a quiet person with a stealth sense of humor. He is humble and down to earth. His old partner, Jim Clendenen, is a bit different being more gregarious and outgoing. But, even as their personalities may not be exactly the same, the style of wine produced by both is very similar. In fact, it seems fair to say that The Ojai Vineyard is very much related to what I have called the Holy Trinity of Winemaking (Au Bon Climat, Qupé, and Chanin)…. And, to carry it a step further, Ojai Vineyards may represent the fourth leg, albeit detached, on the stool! All four of these wineries are dedicated to making wine in a classic style with finesse and flavor, but not overly alcoholic or over the top….Following this trend, I would later connect several more Central Coast wineries making wine in a traditional style in an article entitled World Class Central Coast Wineries. (To read that article click here ).
About a year after the Holy Trinity of Wineries article appeared Gavin left to go to a new winery facility and devote his time to Chanin Wine Company. Since then he has now relocated in Lompoc where he has a spacious winery facility. Gavin is a talented, serious and hard working young man. He is also very fortunate to have been able to start his career at a very early age under the tutelage of two of California’s best vintners, Jim Clendenin and Bob Lindquist. He has learned his lesson well. His wines have been consistently lovely and I have tasted and reviewed many of them in the last few years (To read some recent reviews follow these links: 2010 Chardonnay , 2010 Pinot Noir , 2011 Pinot Noir , 2012 Chardonnay and 2012 Pinot Noir).
Here is Gavin’s philosophy on making wine:
Chanin Wine Co. is dedicated to crafting wines from Santa Barbara County that reflect the individual vineyard in which they are grown. We focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two grapes that are especially revealing of subtle differences in geography, geology and climate. Our grapes are grown in Santa Barbara County, where cool coastal winds, diverse marine based soils and a long growing season provide an exciting and unique environment for Burgundian varieties.
The vineyards are the focus of all of our wines and each wine is made from grapes grown at one vineyard and not blended. We search out old vines, and make wine from some of the oldest in the county. This allows us to make refreshingly balanced wines at lower alcohol levels than most California “blockbuster” or “cult” styled wines. Through low yields, improved farming techniques and gentle winemaking we aim to create a wine that pairs well with food and is delicious young, but is also age-worthy. All of our vineyards are organic or sustainably farmed.
Our winemaking philosophy is rooted in representing each individual vineyard by emphasizing balance, finesse, and complexity. We avoid excessive alcohol, and modern winemaking additives (such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, enzymes) that can overshadow vineyard characteristics. We also do not filter our wines or use intrusive wine processing machines. The goal is to grow grapes that are so healthy none of the above is needed.
In addition to graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA, Gavin was an award winning art student. Turning to wine, in a short period of time, he has established a reputation for making some of the most beautiful and distinctive wines in the state. Each bottle is literally a work of art with one of Gavin’s paintings featured on the label. It’s a win/win situation. Beautiful wines inside and outside!
Chanin Wine Company
These 2013 Chanin Wine Company wines are very special. They have purity and balance which makes them irresistible. Yet they are structured and surely will repay some additional time in the cellar. A few were released several months ago and the rest are just being released now. The quantities are small so if you wish to buy them now is the time!
I am sure that if you like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in a very pure and balanced style you will love these wines!
2013 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County
The production of this Chardonnay totaled 238 cases. It will be released in April and represents very good value. The wine is light yellow in color and has a lovely subtle perfume with hints of citrus and peach and a faint floral undertone. It is very finesseful and pure with lovely crisp fruit showing an underlying floral component and is very stylistic and beautifully balanced. This is a Chardonnay that exudes varietal character without being heavy or over the top. It is finesseful yet with depth and flavor and is wrapped in a seamless package with a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus. $35
2013 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this Chardonnay totaled 192 cases. It will be released in April. It is a wine of purity, character and depth. The color is light yellow with a very faint golden hue and the perfume is faintly floral with hints of citrus and peach with a very faint underlying spice. Very pure, with richness and depth and very harmonious balance this is a Chardonnay of great style that is delicious now and will repay additional bottle age as well – Outstanding Plus. $40
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
There are 589 cases of this wine. It will be released in April.
With a deep color showing just a bit of amber at the edge, this Pinot Noir is loaded with very pure berry fruit. The floral tinged perfume is gorgeous with hints of cherry and a whiff of spice. Supple, elegant and beautifully balanced the wine has a lot of early appeal with a promise of more development with additional age – Outstanding Plus. $50
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Duvarita Vineyard Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine totaled 239 cases and it was released in November, 2014.
With a deep color the wine has a stunning perfume with hints of mulberry accented by floral nuances and a hint of spice. It is supple, rounded, and lush with lots of berry fruit and shows depth and richness – Outstanding Plus. $50
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
There are 240 cases of this wine. It will be released in April.
This is a Pinot Noir with a lot of finesse and charm. It has a very nice color and a lovely floral perfume with strawberry nuances. With very pure and bright fruit, it is stylistic with a nice underlying crispness and lots of charm – Outstanding. $60
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine totaled 394 cases. It was released in November, 2014.
This is an elegant and beautifully crafted Pinot Noir with a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of cherry. The wine opens with air to reveal very pure floral tinged fruit showig a very faint kiss of spice. Balanced and very pure and accessible, this is very distinctive and stylistic. It should age beautifully – Outstanding. $50
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Rita’s Crown Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
There are 218 cases of this wine. It will be released in April.
This is a very flavorful and balanced Pinot Noir with a deep color and a lovely perfume showing a myriad of berry fruits with tinges of spice. It is very pure, lush, and rounded, with layers of bright fruit and a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $50
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine totaled 342 cases. It will be released in April.
This is a beautifully balanced and flavorful Pinot Noir. It has a deep color and a great perfume showing berries and plums with floral nuances. A very elegant wine that is supple and pure with a nice fresh crispness, it can be enjoyed now kept for many years into the future – Outstanding Plus. $60
2013 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Zotovich Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
The production of this wine totaled 353 cases. It was released in November, 2014.
This Pinot Noir is very open and expressive. It has a deep color and a lovely berry and cherry perfume with floral nuances. There is lots of fruit on the palate and the wine is supple and rounded with balance and depth – Outstanding. $50
Gavin Chanin and Bill Price
Never one to rest on his laurels, Gavin also recently became involved making wine with partner and vineyard and winery owner, Bill Price, in a new venture called Lutum. Lutum is Latin for soil or dirt. Here’s how they have described their new venture: Over the last few decades, California’s great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sites have been recognized by the winemaking community. Bill Price owns and farms a few such sites—including the Durell Vineyard and Gap’s Crown Vineyard in Sonoma, and Gavin Chanin has over ten years of winemaking experience with other great vineyards within Santa Barbara County. Each vineyard has its own story. Our job is to let the wine tell it.
Last year I tasted the 2012 Lutum Pinot Noirs which were very nice (to read that article click here ). This year I tasted the 2013 Lutum Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs which are really special. These are wines to buy!
2013 Lutum Chardonnay Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
The production of this wine was 147 cases and it will be released in March.
The wine has a light yellow color with a faint golden hue and has a lovely floral citrus perfume with a faint spice undertone. The fruit is lush and pure and accented by floral tinges and a kiss of spice. Balanced with great suppleness and an underlying crispness, this is Chardonnay with great style and flavor – Outstanding Plus. $50
2013 Lutum Chardonnay Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
There were 192 cases of this wine produced and it will be released in March.
Light yellow gold in color, this Chardonnay is rich and lush. It has a lovely floral perfume with hints of apricot and spice. Rounded and supple with a nice underlying citrus tinge there is an abundance of fruit giving the wine a lot of early appeal – Outstanding. $50
2013 Lutum Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine was 197 cases and it will be released in March.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Chardonnay has a floral perfume with a touch of citrus and a kiss of vanilla. Very pure with lots of citrus tinged fruit, this is an elegant wine with a beautifully balanced underlying crispness. It is delicious to drink now, but undoubtedly will age gracefully for some years – Outstanding. $50
2013 Lutum Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine totaled 624 cases. It will be released in March.
This Pinot Noir has a deep color and has a lovely berry tinged perfume. Seductive with lots of supple fruit it is balanced and flavorful with a lot of early appeal and the potential for evolving over many years – Outstanding. $50
2013 Lutum Pinot Noir Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
There are 244 cases of this wine. It will be released in March.
With a deep color this wine has a lovely perfume with floral notes and berry and cherry nuances. It is very fruit forward with a myriad of berry fruit flavors and a supple quality that is very attractive – Outstanding. $60
2013 Lutum Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma Valley
The production of this wine is 293 cases. It will be released in March.
Deep in color with an amber edge, this Pinot Noir has a floral spice tinged perfume and very pure fruit. It manages to maintain a lot of finesse and balance along with rich flavors. Delicious now, it will be interesting to watch the evolution – Outstanding. $60
This range of 2013 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here is just stunning. Outstanding wines across the board! If you do not yet know these wines, now is the time to start. I suggest you buy some and taste for yourself. Open them and drink them over several days. I think you will be impressed and come away with great satisfaction and a desire to cellar some for future enjoyment. Note: The wines are in very limited retail distribution and are sold mostly to restaurants, but can be purchased direct from the winery. Here is the comment from the Chanin Wine Company website:
We strongly believe that wine and food were meant to go side by side. We make these wines with food in mind, just as we cook with our wine choices in mind. For this reason we primarily sell this wine to restaurants, and we hope you support the restaurants that serve our wine. If you cannot find our wine at your local restaurants or wine shop please join our mailing list. (To see the list of restaurants and retailers carrying the wines, get on the mailing list, or join the soon to be created wine club click here ).