5 Questions with Gavin Chanin of Chanin Wine Co.

Chanin Wine CompanyI had quite a great time while moderating and tasting my way through the very cool California Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance (Twitter) event, back in late March.  It was there during the trade tasting at Rn74 (Twitter) that I had the great pleasure of trying two Pinots from a young winemaker by the name of Gavin Chanin, winemaker and proprietor of his relatively new, Chanin Wine Company (Twitter, WineLog).  After getting to know a bit about Chanin while at the event, I resolved to find out more about this fresh winemaking personality and his myriad of fine vineyard connections and non-wine, artistic leanings.

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You have a bit more of an old school philosophy about your wines, despite making Pinot in California. Could you explain more about what you’re striving for with each vintage of your Chardonnay and Pinot Noir?

Gavin Chanin - Chanin Wine Company Gavin Chanin (Twitter, WineLog): My wines are generally lower in alcohol and higher in acidity that what has recently been coming from California. I strive to make wines that have balance, energy, ageability and most importantly wines that are delicious. To do this in California I think you need to eliminate hot, alcoholic, fruity wines that show little about the place they were grown. I am fascinated with this idea that certain vineyards are so unique that they leave recognizable characteristics in the finished wines years and years down the road. In my experience, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are most sensitive to changes in soil, and climate and thus a great place to explore the idea further.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Despite your decidedly youthful age, you’ve thrown down some serious wine time, working vintages at such legends as Au Bon Climat, Qupé and a few others around the world. How did you get into wine so quickly and can I have your hookups (j/k)?

Chanin Wine Company Gavin Chanin (Twitter, WineLog): I worked my first harvest a few months after my high school graduation. I though winemaking really sounded cool so when to opportunity came up to make wine for a summer I jumped on it. I ended up falling in love with wine really quickly. I worked the next two vintages in California before taking a year off of school and working in south Africa and New Zealand. This will be my eighth vintage in California and my 11th harvest overall.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Out of the vintages listed above, which one has been your favorite and why?

Gavin Chanin (Twitter, WineLog): I really loved the 2010 vintage. It was a challenging vintage but at the same time I think I made my best wines yet. Doing you best work it what many consider a very tough vintage makes me even more proud of the wines. I love the elegance of the 2008s, the muscle of the 2009s and the balance of 2007. So I guess I like them all. I am a big believer that vintage is just as important as soil and climate when it comes to showing terroir so I love how every vintage is so different.

4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Your degree out of UCLA was fine art. Indeed, you are actually quite an accomplished artist, winning awards for your artwork, which can be seen on each of your wine labels. Was it hard to decide between the two? Are you still actively painting?

Gavin Chanin art & labels - Chanin Wine Company Gavin Chanin (Twitter, WineLog): I struggled between art and wine for a few years. Really art had no chance, I used to talk about wine all day in class anyways. I knew when I left school to work abroad that I would have to reapply to UCLA which at the time wasn’t accepting a lot of students. I took this risk because I loved wine and didn’t want to wait. I am still painting but I do it in quick productive bursts then take a few months off. I guess I am used to working harvest hours.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You’ve worked in parts of California, New Zealand and South Africa. Was it hard to choose where you wanted to settle down once you made the decision to launch your own winery? Also, what’s next for Chanin Wines?

Gavin Chanin (Twitter, WineLog): There was never a question in my mind that I would make wine in Santa Barbara. This is such a unique area and I spent so much time training here. Maybe in the future I will have an opportunity to make wine from other regions in California, Sonoma has always been very appealing to me. I would love to make Syrah in South Africa. There is not a lot made out there and I think it could really be world class. As for Chanin Wine Co, I think in the future you will see more single vineyard wines from really unique places. On the flip side don’t rule out a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I think it would be a great way to introduce people to the more elegant side of California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay without them having to jump straight into the single vineyard wines.

Listed below are the two wines that I had the fortune of tasting from Chanin, during that fine day in March for In Pursuit of Balance 2011.  Below that are all of the wines that I tried at the event and am continuing to upload to my WineLog, tagged with “IPOB2011March“.  I also wanted to throw out a big thanks to Gavin for granting me the time for this interview.  Cheers!

Chanin Wine Company (Twitter, WineLog):

Chanin Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Color: Light ruby core, clear edges

Nose: Toast & earth, with baked yet juicy red fruit here, alongside some cola.

Palate: Very juicy fruit here, very fresh and bright, and not anticipated from the nose. Good with the toast and fine tannins balances and light earth finish.

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Chanin Santa Maria Valley Le Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2008

Color: Light ruby core, clear edges

Nose: Good tarter raspberry here, earthy toast and slight char, but also has some nice bright red fruit in the fore.

Palate: Very bright acid here, light florals, earth and toast, good juiciest cranberry raspberry and finishes with touch of cola. Very good: OldWorldWK.

In Pursuit of Balance 2011 (Twitter, IPOB2011March):

[winelist query=”IPOB2011March” num=”50″]

TasteLive!: Pinot Noir & The Influence of AVA

TasteLive!Some of my favorite wine events don’t actually exist.  Well, that’s not quite right…they don’t actually exist, physically.  Some of the most interesting and educational tastings that occur each month take place virtually, over on the rather snazzy TasteLive! (Twitter, WineLog) Twitter-based tasting platform.  Just in the last month they’ve had a phenomenal tasting of affordable Bordeaux hosted by Planet Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog) and an even more comprehensive tasting of Spanish wines from Navarra, hosted by Wines of Navarra (Twitter, WineLog).  Join us tonight 6-7pm PST, as we taste through three Pinot Noir for “Pinot Noir & The Influence of AVA.”

Creative FurnaceThe wines that we’ll be tasting tonight from (mine were courtesy of TasteLive! & Creative Furnace) were specifically picked to demonstrate the effect that appellations have upon that finicky grape variety and wine varietal, Pinot Noir.  Pinot has as well-deserved reputation for being very sensitive to its surrounding terroir (or climate/soil/water, etc) of the vineyard.  While these wines are not all from the same producer nor vintage, they were chosen because they demonstrate the expected terroir of each of these three fine California appellations: Carneros, Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley.

You can find all of the wines that we’re tasting tomorrow night for listing in your own WineLog, tagged with “TasteLive2011PinotAVA“.  All of the wines that I’ve tasted during TasteLive events over the years can be found tagged with “TasteLive“.  Even if you don’t have the wines handy, log on to Twitter and catch the #tl_wine stream and participate!


QPRWK - WKBadges Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2007

Color: Lighter ruby/rose with almost clear edges

Nose: Bing cherry, bigger pepper and some sweeter violet florals and some dried rosemary.

Palate: Lots of sweeter rhubarb and creamier cola, with spicy cherry and a cooler savory herb component into the light-bodied, light-tannin, nicely bright finish. Good deal for this quality of pinot: QPRWK.

Krutz Family Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2007

Color: Medium to lighter ruby, slight brick, clear edges

Nose: Sweet Bing cherry fruit, with some toast underlain below it, sweeter cola rounding out the nose.

Palate: Cool round mouthfeel, with some unsweetened Dr. Pepper almost, with the cherry and anise components melding on the rounder palate and more floral and creamier toast going into that finish. Fruitier, not as structured.

Davis Bynum Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009

Color: Medium dark ruby edges, lightest ruby edges

Nose: Cool, baking spiced red fruit, definitely bright, yet quite plush, unsweetened root beer with some nice light violets to add complexity along with a hint of earth.

Palate: Fuller here, with cool and round red and some black fruit here.  Light, fine tannins and good bright acidity adds to the cherry cola and lightly toasted finish, ending with a bit of cream and more cola.

All TasteLive wines that I’ve tasted:

[winelist query=”TasteLive” num=”200″]

Slingin' the Pinot [for] Days

7th Annual Pinot Days 2011I don’t know if my life has turned the speed of time to 11 or what this year, but it’s already time again for one of the best SF wine events of the year: 7th Annual Pinot Days 2011 (Twitter)Last year’s event was a must attend and this year Lisa and Steve Rigisich et al, have added a slew of additional events for the entire week of festivities and have expanded many wine regions to make this one even mo’ betta.  How can such a fine vino event get any better, you ask?  Try upping the number of producers over the 200 mark (over 400 Pinot Noir), organizing “the largest presence of Oregon producers ever gathered outside of Oregon” [I’m excited about this one], a fantastic online charity auction and a new Burgundy Corner to showcase the birthplace of this finicky but fine grape variety.

The Pinot Days San Francisco Online Auction is being hosted over at BiddingForGood.com as I write this and attendance at the Festival is not needed in order to bid.  This year’s Charity Beneficiary is the OCMC Water Well Dig Project for the Turkana people of Loupwala in East Africa.  There are a ton of diverse lots available, including 2009 Kosta Browne Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Magnum Etched & Signed in Wooden Box, Socolo Chocolatier Artisan Chocolate Truffles and the awesome 2008 Benziger Pinot Noir (3 Tiers) – 1 Case and Gift Certificate for a Benziger Biodynamic Tram Tour lot!

The full deets for the entire week of Pinot fun are below and my posse and myself are going to be at the Grand Festival in full, spitting force (minus one glorious Lady, unfortunately), so we look forward to seeing all of you there as well!

7th Annual Pinot Days Grand Festival

Saturday, June 18, 2011 1:00pm-5:00pm

Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center

Cost: $50


Today's Bordeaux is in New York City?!

Today's Bordeaux 2010 - EnjoyBordeaux.com My regular readers know that the Enjoy Bordeaux Le Wine Buff’s took NYC by storm a couple months back, helping host the Snooth and Ziff Davis TechEnology event, back at the end of March.  It was there that we battled the East Coast urban prejudices against affordable, quality Bordeaux and taught them who’s boss.  Well the Buffs are headed back the East Coast to jury the 2011 Today’s Bordeaux: Top 45 Affordable Bordeaux Under $45 and I have to say, it’s gonna be great.  For when Bordeaux hits the Big Apple, it’s sure to be culinary and vino awesomeness!

Le Wine Buff - EnjoyBordeaux.comWith all of the news about the even higher prices for an extremely small number of über high-end Chateaux 2010 futures hitting all the news wires leading up to Vinexpo later this month, it might be surprising to hear that Bordeaux is actually one of the highest sources for affordable, high QPR wines.  Yet Bordeaux has thousands of producers and négociants across 60 sub-appellations, amounting to many, many labels of fine wine, most of which is squarely in the inexpensive realm of vino drinkin’.

It is just this plethora of value within BDX that the Today’s Bordeaux list aims to celebrate.  We Buffs will slave away, for 1.5 days straight, pouring poring through 150+ entries to bring you the top 100 affordable Bordeaux for 2011.  No, no, no, don’t thank us…it’s what we do.  Cheers! 😉

Enjoy Bordeaux

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB and Benson Marketing.

Kia Ora está en La Mar

Nobilo - Marlborough SoundsOK, so they don’t speak Spanish in New Zealand…they speak Kiwi English.  I know this, but based on my love of Spanish food and my experiences along the coasts of both Spain and Portugal (diff language, I know!) last Summer, they might as well speak that Romantic language, what with the bright, quality wine that they put out with each vintage.   Seafood is the phenom pairing for the vast majority of these wines and I’m happy to throw them together on the regular.

Now clearly, I’ve always been a fan of NZ wines, so let’s just get that experiential bias right out in the open.  So when I heard that would soon be a winemaker dinner that not only paired some classic NZ winemakers alongside some fervent wine bloggers, but also some extremely tasty Peruvian seafood with said winemakers’ wines…I said [frak] yeah, I’ll come!

I attended this tasty dinner courtesy of Benson Marketing Group.  They teamed up with Constellation New Zealand to put together this US road show and I was happy to be a part.  The setting was La Mar Cebicheria, at Pier 1 1/2 in the San Francisco Embarcadero.  The food at this place is just nuts.  I’d been there a couple times before for both wine work and work work: it features a freshly prepared menu of seafood that I haven’t yet found an equal.  Damn good food, so I was pumped when I arrived.  I met two of the most friendly bear-men you’ll meet when I arrived, winemakers Dave Edmonds and Darryl Wooley of Nobilo Wines (as you can see in the video above, courtesy of Nobilo).  The third winemaker, Anthony Walkenhorst from Kim Crawford, was also extremely nice, but seemed more likely to kindly offer up a run through the forest than wrap you in an strong embrace (also a good thing).

[winebadge id=”58868″]

As we tasted through the wines, alongside some slammin’ cebiche chifa, we had a nice walking tour through the various sub-regions, climates and soils of the Marlborough appellation.  The well-known Marlborough appellation has a variety of sub-regions that are just now getting their own names out across the US.  From the warmer, drier and more alluvial soiled Wahopai, Wairau, and Rapura that help to contribute a more tropical fruit flavor to their wines, to the cooler Awatere Valley, where the wines can pick up those more herbal and citrus characteristics that have made NZ wines a star across much of the wine world these past two decades.  It was a fascinating lesson in climate and geology and one that I sorely needed, with my limited understanding of these sub-regions.

The patience of Dave and Darryl (and most likely Anthony if I was able to hear that end of the table) to answer my questions was exceedingly high and rivals only that of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers.  This was made even more evident when Dave leaked the fact that he was desperately trying to find a ride to the North Bay (after the last ferry) in order to meet up with with a very old friend that he hadn’t seen in many years, the last time he was stateside.  And all of this was going on after I had already been told that these this kind troupe of winegrowers had gleaned only about 10 hours sleep in the last week, during their zip across the states for this vino trip.  For this patience, their wines, the education and the delicious food; I thank them!

You can find all of the wines that we tried that night to list in your own WineLog by searching the tag “KiaOra2010.”  What are your own experiences with Kiwi wine?  Cheers!

Drylands Wines (WineLog):

QPRWK - WKBadgesNewWorldWK - WKBadges Drylands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Delving into golden tones, with clear edges

Nose: Slight savory herbs at first, then tropical fruits and some nice clean slate minerality.

Palate: Softer pink grapefruit in the fore, then that kicks into a zesty, almost spicy fruit composition out to the finish.  All of this is complemented by some tropical fruit lurking underneath.  Good: NewWorldWK, QPRWK.

Kim Crawford Wines (Twitter, WineLog):

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Spitfire Small Parcel Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009

Monkey Bay Wines: (WineLog):

Monkey Bay Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Nobilo Wines (WineLog):

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary core, clear edges

Nose: Clean, some minerality with medium tropical fruits and good grapefruit.

Palate: Salty, juicy grapefruit and bright zesty tropical fruit, with a long juicy finish featuring crisp acidity: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary clear edges

Nose: Distinct tomato vine here, Great juicy grapefruit as well and clean minerality.

Palate: More complex structure here, with a fuller mouthfeel and better balance with the crisp and clean citrus and that tomato vine finish.  Very good: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Pinot Noir 2009

Color: Lighter ruby

Nose: Good savory nose with toast, darker red fruit of rhubarb and then anise in this barrel sample.

Palate: Silky and medium full body, with good acidity showing bright cherry and cranberry fruit alongside that rhubarb and subtle anise.  The toast underlays all of this along with some white pepper towards the finish. Good: NewWorldWK.

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