The Ghost of Harvest Past

By Ray Isle Posted August 14, 2007

I had an interesting meeting the other day with Bill Murphy, the owner of California's Clos LaChance Winery. Though I should probably say interesting for me, since Clos LaChance-in its original home in the old Congress Springs facility up above Saratoga-was where I cut my teeth in the wine business, so to speak. What ‘cutting my teeth' meant in this case was getting a rapid education in how to lift racks of barrels with forklifts, how to wash out macrobins with a high-pressure hose, how to fall off ladders and not die, how to pump wine from barrel to tank (and, in one memorably unfortunate instance, how to inadvertently blend several barrels of Merlot into a tank of Cabernet Sauvignon, thus earning the title "the Master Blender" for the rest of harvest)-all those romantic tasks associated with making wine. Oh, the bucolic wonder of it all.

In any case, Clos LaChance has since moved into its own winery down near Gilroy-radically nicer facility-and starting with this vintage is shifting primarily to wines made from estate fruit. The Murphys have had a smart, fair sense of pricing since they started their business, and that still holds true. We tasted through a few current releases from CLC's top tier of wines, and though they're not cheap, the wines still offer very good value for money, I think.

2004 Clos LaChance Biagini Vineyard Chardonnay ($35) This unfiltered, unfined Chardonnay comes from a small vineyard on the ocean side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Appealing aromas of ripe apricots, corn, spicy oak; equally appealing flavors of pineapple and apricot, matched with fresh acidity.

2004 Clos LaChance Biagini Vineyard Pinot Noir ($35) From the same vineyard, this intense Pinot opens with dark berry and smoke notes, with a touch of cola; the berry flavors shift more towards black cherry in the finish. Nicely structured: more proof that the Santa Crus Mountains are an underrated source of good Pinot Noir.

2004 Clos LaChance Estate Grenache ($28) This is robust and luscious, full of sour cherry and boysenberry flavors, ripe and long. Hints of dark chocolate and minty spice floating around, too. Would be a great Thanksgiving red, if you're looking for one.

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