Chanticleer Wine is a winery with vineyards located just above the town of Yountville close to the Veterans home on the west side of the valley. Astute readers will note that the name Chanticleer is the name of a heroic rooster in one of the Canterbury Tales. The actual vineyards called Morningside are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese and are 8 acres in size. These are entirely hillside vineyards. We had the opportunity to see the vineyards first hand – at first glance you would hardly think vines can grow here! The soil is extremely rocky and parts of the vineyard are completely covered in rocks, but this is the type of growing conditions that Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in and as a result of their terroir, the yields are fairly low.
Founder and owner, George Grodahl has lived several lives – his first career involved working in computer sales and as an investment banker. He and his wife Caddy discovered this site in the hills of the Mayacamas mountains to the west of Yountville. In 1994 they purchased 40 acres with the intent to plant grapes and sell them to local wineries. They did this for several years with the help of Jim Barbour of Barbour Vineyard Management who laid out the vineyard architecture. A friend encouraged George to make wine – with his friend’s help he began to make home wine for fun – calling the new label Chanticleer. But it wasn’t initially released and was given to friends and family.
While walking through the the vineyard with George we quickly noticed how rocky the soils are – one of the rockiest sites we have seen in all of the Napa Valley.
Chanticleer specializes in a Super Tuscan style of wine with two releases each year, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sangiovese (all estate grown). This winery is a partnership between George and winemaker Chris Dearden who was General Manager and winemaker at Benessere Vineyards for a number of years who now has his own wine brand, Dearden Wines. In the late 1990s George continued to sell grapes to local wineries while holding back small quantities for his own home made wine. A familiar story ensued similar to select other small boutique wineries. The home made wine continued to improve in quality each year and soon friends and family were asking to purchase their wine. Their first commercial vintage was in 2000.
One doesn’t see a lot of Pinot Grigio in the Napa Valley. This variety is often associated with Italy or if planted in France, is referred to as Pinot Gris. Pinot Grigio is mutant variety of Pinot Noir – after its grapes have gone through veraison the grapes often show a noticeable grey skin color and an almost brownish pink tone to the skins (“gris” means grey in French).
The 2017 Chanticleer Pinot Grigio was sourced from Carneros; deep golden in color shows a floral sweetness to the bouquet including aromas of honeysuckle and passion fruit. Also honeycomb dripping with honey, apricot and hints of creme brule, showing more on the edges of the bouquet. This is a fun wine to smell, and one that has plenty of layers of aroma. Very flavorful, with a rounded but not creamy texture. A little thin/watery mid palate but a richness shows up again on the finish. Good acidity.
When we think of Sangiovese and the Napa Valley, we think of the Rodeno clone (named after Gregory and Michaela Rodeno who grow and make wine from this variety under their label, Villa Ragazzi). But there are other select other blocks of this growing around the valley including at George’s Morningside Vineyard. The 2017 Chanticleer Sangiovese was blended with 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; the wine is medium ruby in color – offers an elegant bouquet of red cherry, menthol, tobacco leaf and currant. As the wine breathes further, hints of mocha are revealed. Plenty of character on the palate both in its textural feel and depth of flavor with notes of red cherry and currant. Great acidity. Lingers with flavors of dry tobacco, plum and cranberry. An excellent food fine with its mouth watering acidity and moderate grip of tannins.
The Chanticleer 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with only 1% Sangiovese; deep ruby in color with some purplish tinges around the rim, offers rich, dark and layered aromatics. Aromas of blackberry and ripe plum, tobacco, and an elegant layer of vanilla and mocha, round out the bouquet. Wonderfully balanced across the palate with flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and dried tobacco. Definitely more dark fruit characteristics then red. We love the texture on this wine – dense without being heavy. Finishes with mouth watering acidity, some darker spices and moderate earthy/dusty tannins.
During our first visit with George, we tried the Chanticleer 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – this is a delicious wine that only gets better in the bottle. True to the Chris’s roots at Benessere Vineyards (a winery known for their work with a number of Italian varietals) and based on the fact that Sangiovese is planted in the Chanticleer vineyard – a small percentage of this varietal is also blended into the wine. This varietal brings some aromatics to the bouquet which is somewhat floral in nature, with notes of violets and just a touch of cedar from the oak aging. The palate is broad, rounded and smooth. Richly layered on the palate – shows flavors of blackberry and black currant.
Chanticleer recommends decanting their wines before serving. As of the time of this review they still have select Magnums and other large format bottles for sale, all hand painted and etched. Their label is a colorful rooster which has actually become quite popular with collectors. Total production is about 1500 cases and as a result of their limited production, the wines are extremely hard to find and often much of it is sold out before it has even been released.
Your best bet to acquire the wine is through their website’s mailing list or locally in the Napa Valley at V Wine Cellar in Yountville. Also check out some of the mouth watering recipes their customers have submitted. And George is a prolific joke teller – growing up in Minnesota with Norwegian heritage he has learned a number of Ole and Lena Jokes which he has recorded for posterity sake on Youtube.
For more information and to join their mailing list, visit: www.chanticleerwine.com
NOTE: in 2020 the Chanticleer brand and the Morningside Vineyard property was sold to Nicholson Ranch Winery owner (neighboring Sonoma County) Deepak Gulrajani & long time Chanticleer wine club member Jeff Karpel. Chanticleer wines will continue to be produced including using grapes from the Morningside Vineyard. Unless we hear otherwise, the wines will be made at Nicholson Ranch – which means we are now archiving this review since no longer a Napa produced and bottled brand. If we find out otherwise and or have additional information – we will update this review accordingly. But for now it remains archived.
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