Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chadds Ford Winery - Unintimidated by the Heartbreak Grape

Chadds Ford Winery's 2012 Pinot Noir Photo Credit Bill Rockwell

Over the years, I’ve found that my wine preferences have vacillated from time to time. Once a confirmed Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon drinker, I flirted with Sauvignon Blanc for a while, then had a crush on Pinot Blanc (Grigio) and even found myself enraptured with some of the Virginia Viogniers.
As to red wines, my initial (and long-standing) preference for Cabs was abandoned for a while with  a foray into Merlot and Melbec. Recently, in the last year or so, I’ve come to give Pinot Noir the nod as my favorite red and put it at the top of my list.
Last month, an email from Chadds Ford Winery stoked my memory of a visit to the Chester County establishment nestled in Eastern Pennsylvania. About ten years ago, as I recall, owner Eric Miller and his son made a special trip to Oregon to check out the wine making techniques of the Pinot Noir winemakers. Miller wanted to sample the wines and research possible techniques he could adapt to his own Pinot Noir making ambitions.
While Miller is currently retired from his winemaking duties, the winery is still producing wine, including two versions of Pinot Noir, a grape known for its temperamental predisposition that’s given it the sobriquet "the heartbreak grape."
I don’t know how many other Pennsylvania wineries make Pinot Noir in a region not usually associated with the varietal. But Chadds Ford does, and, in view of my recent affinity for the grape, I decided to get my hands on a bottle and see for myself what’s being done to produce the red wine I’ve grown so fond of in my home state.
Last week, I uncorked a bottle of Chadds Ford 2012 Pinot Noir and found it to be a deep garnet red with a berry-driven, earthy bouquet. Specs identify the grapes as being 80% Pinot Noir from Appletree Farm and Vineyard in Adams County, Pa. and 20%
Chambourcin from Seven Valleys Vineyard in York County, Pa, 
In his notes, the winemaker states that, "due to the late heavy storms at harvest resulting in a lighter bodied vintage, we decided to bolster the structure of the Pinot Noir with a bit of Chambourcin from the ever reliable Seven Valleys Vineyard in York County. We also backed off slightly its time in barrel to strike a pleasant balance between the light cherry and plum forward fruit with it’s sandalwood and vanilla notes to
create a pleasant delicate finish."
The wine spent five months in two and three year old French and Hungarian oak barrels, but I found the tannins a bit too heavy for my liking. The somewhat assertive Chambourcin and oak aging obviously contributed to the wine’s full bodied, intense flavor, which makes it a great accompaniment to duck, goose, grilled salmon and chocolate and chocolate dessert.
With 0.0% residual sugar, 0.59 acidity and 12.5% alcohol, the 2012 Chadds Ford Pinot Noir sells for $24.99 a 750 ml bottle.
I’ve not yet managed to sample the Miller Estate Pinot Noir, a second option made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested in 2010 at the Miller Estate in Chester County. Accompanying notes state that the growing season was hot and dry and constituted one of the best vintages in the East. The Miller Estate Pinot comes with a $34.99 price tag.

Statue of Bacchus, God of Wine, and a Faun at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Photo Credit Bill Rockwell

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