Food & Wine: World Class Local Wines
Monterey wines continue to star at their own show.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
The Masters of Food and Wine is an all-star game for wineries from around the world—industry titans such as Bouchard Pere & Fils of Burgundy, Henschke of Australia, Cloudy Bay of New Zealand, Weingut Dr. Loosen of Germany and Marchese di Frescobaldi of Italy. On top of that, the wines of Jorge Ordonez of Spain, not to mention greats from California like Peter Michael, Paul Hobbs, Silver Oak, Testarossa, Far Niente and more, all strut their collective stuff.
With less fanfare than is warranted, Monterey County has always maintained a strong presence at the Masters.
At this year’s opening night gala, the international wine and food cognoscenti will be fortunate to experience the delicious offerings of a contingent of our own neighbors. Led by Robert Talbott Vineyards, which has long held its place among the world’s finest wineries, Masters attendees will also be able to taste wines from Chalone Vineyards—for many reasons, one of the most historically important wineries in California (one being the fact that Chalone Chardonnay was at the monumental 1976 Paris Tasting).
Directly across the wide expanse of the Salinas Valley from the Pinnacles (where Chalone enjoys its own appellation), in the Santa Lucia Highlands, lies Pisoni Vineyards & Winery. Is there any person in the kaleidoscopic wine world more colorful than Gary Pisoni? Doubtful. His great wines and tradition are carried on by his two sons, Jeff and Mark—they’ll all be there. As will Morgan Winery and the wines of Dan Lee, long a local standard bearer whose wines have steadily gained a following outside the county.
Jack Galante, the cowboy hat-wearing wine wacko from way out in Carmel Valley, will be pouring his fabulous reds, many of which become sold out almost before they are released. Roar Wines, a new winery by Gary & Rosella Franscioni, is making its debut this year. Gary Franscioni descends from a century of Santa Lucia Highlands grape growers and is a name well known throughout the wine world.
Another Carmel Valley winery, River Ranch Vineyard, will showcase its delightful Burgundian varietal wines. Monterey County dwellers have been River Ranch fans for years—it’s nice to have folks from outside these parts get an opportunity to taste.
Then of course there’s Chappelett Vineyards. Granted, it’s one of St. Helena’s flagship properties, but the Chappelett Family has always had a presence around here so we kind of think of them as one of ours too.
Two years ago, at Masters Opening Night, Ross Allen of Talbott Vineyards was pouring the newly released 2000 Talbott Chardonnay, Cuvee Audrey—its debut vintage. Those in the wine business around here had already been introduced to this magnificent wine a few weeks earlier, prompting most to immediately include it among the very best Chardonnays produced anywhere. Coincidentally, Ridge Vineyards (another Paris Tasting alum) had its table next to Talbott. None other than Paul Draper, a man whose significance in the world of California wine (hence the bigger world of wine) cannot be overstated, happily spent the evening reaching his tasting glass across for Ross to pour him more of the wine he called, “the best wine here.”