When planning the shopping for our camp menu at Pinnacles National Monument last weekend, I felt it only prudent to return a bottle of Chalone Pinot Noir to its origin, if somewhat figuratively. After all, the limestone hills surrounding the volcanic upthrust that is Pinnacles have created the soils that produce, together with Monterey County’s cool nights and warm summers, some of the best Pinot grapes in California.
So, under the watchful gaze of Chalone Peak, we enjoyed the fruity crispness of a 2004 Pinot Noir from Chalone Vineyard. I only wish I had not eaten spicy food prior to tasting this wine, because the wine didn’t stand up to my distorted palate’s interpretation of it. So, I decided to give the wine another chance after returning home.
Oh, what a difference a clean palate makes! In the confines of my own bar, this Pinot delivered a much richer aroma, with black cherries and spicy undertones. With a nice depth and rich structure, I was quite happy to give this wine a second chance. And tonight, it might just get a third chance!
On a side note: while in camp, we winehikers were lucky to have Oakland’s Gary Fox in our presence not only as a fellow hiker, but also as an amateur grape-grower and winemaker. I had been looking forward to tasting Gary’s wares, and I was not disappointed! Gary’s patience and gentle personality have definitely influenced his approach to winemaking, allowing his Sangiovese blend (75% Sangiovese, 22% Syrah, 3% Merlot) to be remarkably lively and fruity, with surprisingly great finish; a fine complement to the mildly spicy Mexican dinner we enjoyed. Gary’s Merlot was no less exceptional, either, having a smooth, pure quality that I wanted to enjoy more of.
And when the wine makes everyone sing around the campfire, you don’t have to sing if you’re the winemaker. Thank you from the soles of our winehiking boots, Gary! You sure made our weekend.