2016 Michaud, Sangiovese, The Pinnacles National Monument, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
Michael Michaud’s rare Sangiovese offering from vines grown in Chalone’s chalky limestone soils is truly Italian in feel and flavor with brandied cherries, leather, bay leaf and cedary notes, making for a real rewarding effort that that begs for cured meats, olives and tangy tomato sauce pasta dishes. The warm days, cold nights and mineral intense underpinning of the vines gives this wine an authentic character and even this 2016 shows a freshness of acidity, even as it dives into its secondary phase with a nice Tuscan like appeal, gaining plum, strawberry and mulberry fruit, along with hints of anise, cigar wrapper, lavender, shaved vanilla and a touch of balsamic. If tasted blind, you’d really believe you were tasting a red from Italian, it has things about that might lead you to think Nebbiolo or Aglianico, but once on the palate the Sangiovese comes through pretty clearly in this dark garnet wine and its rustic tannins melt away with food, helped by the French oak aging one would suspect. Treated like his Pinots this Sangiovese was carefully sorted and 100% de-stemmed getting a cool maceration and hand punch downs before going into mostly used wood for close to 18 months and then rested further in bottle, over a year, before release. The Michaud Vineyard, with 28.5 acres currently planted, includes nine different clones of Pinot Noir along with some Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne, Barbera and this Sangiovese to name some of what is grown well here.

Winemaker Michael Michaud, ex Chalone Estate, long known for his classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, is based in Chalone’s mountainous wine-growing region, at the foot of the wild and beautiful Pinnacles National Monument, has his vines at about 1,500 feet up in the Gabilan Range. His own label’s journey started in 1997, after leaving Chalone, and he does a small lot lineup of hand-crated estate grown wines. Michaud says it is one of the few places where granite and limestone are co-located, providing a well-drained and mineral rich base, similar to Burgundy and responsible, for what he calls, the trademark “touch of stone” aromas and flavors found in the better wines here. There’s a lot of history here, as Michaud notes, going back to Curtis Tamm, a French immigrant, who has been credited with establishing the first vineyard on the Chalone bench back around 1919, when its believed he put in some Chenin Blanc, which I’m sure survives today. The Chalone AVA is home to seven different vineyards, including the original Chalone Estate, comprising of 360 acres of vinifera that includes the mentioned Chardonnay, Pinot Nor, and Chenin Blanc, as well as Melon de Bourgogne (thought to have been Pinot Blanc) and a mix of Rhone varietals, plus some other rarities like this Sangiovese. I hadn’t had any of these Michaud offerings in quite a while, so this was a good reminder of the quality here and I look forward to getting back up to speed with the full collection at some point soon, but for sure I’ll re-visiting this Sangiovese!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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