2004 Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Michaud Vineyard
California: Monterey County: Challone Appellation
What we say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Michaud Vineyard.
Mission Codename: The Five Clones of Chalone
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Penetrate Monterey County’s Chalone appellation, where uniquely expressive Pinot Noir grapes grow high in the Gabilan mountains – and return with the finest example of Pinot Noir possible
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Michaud Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2004 Michaud Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Michael Michaud
Wine Spies Central Command has had Monterey County’s Chalone Appellation under surveillance for several months now. When requests for Chalone Pinot Noir came flooding in, it was clear that it was time to send an agent to investigate more closely. For today’s superb Pinot Noir, Agent Red was dispatched to the region – where he made a b-line straight for the regions most experienced winemaker, Michael Michaud. Read Agent Red’s mission report below to learn more about this prolific winemaker… and his wonderful wines.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Clear and slightly pale strawberry juice in color, with fat and fast-moving legs and a bouncy surface
Smell – Bright and clear, with deep cherry, blackberry, currant and limestone, this wine is also imbued with subtle fresh herbs, light gunpowder and tomato vine
Feel – Initially very wet on the tongue, this wine glides through the mouth, eventually biting in gently as tannins take effect at the sides and the rear of the tongue – where it also warms up slightly
Taste – A heart of sweet-tart cherry and ripe blackberry and currant flavors abound. Fresh herbal notes and a crisp acidity make this a perfect food companion wine
Finish – long and flavorful, this wine drys slightly but maintains a sweetness and tartness that drifts off slowly
Conclusion – Michael Michaud delivers an incredible Pinot Noir in this perfect example from his vineyards in the Chalone Appellation. This is a superior wine with an array of wonderful flavors and deep aromatics. Its acidity and crisp sweet-tartness lend it to drinking on its own, but also make it infinitely “pairable” with everything from subtle and mild dishes to more robust choices such as prime rib or roast lamb or pork. I recommend decanting this wine for maximum enjoyment. This ready to drink Pinot seems just right for enjoying now, but the winemaker also suggests you cellar a few bottles, where the wine will ‘acquire additional development over time’. Me? I love it now!
For nearly 30 years, winemaker Michael Michaud has been making wine from grapes grown in the Chalone Appellation, giving him more experience in this appellation than any other winemaker. This made my search for a Chalone Pinot Noir an easy one. At least, this made it easy for me to choose Michaud Vineyard as my obvious first target. Actually finding winemaker, Michael Michaud, was another matter entirely.
The life of a Wine Spy is not all glitz and glamor. On the contrary, sometimes we are called on to conduct extended surveillance on a winemaker, vineyard or winery. Other times, we go undercover and work in a tasting room or pose as vineyard workers where toil alongside field hands. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. These experiences enrich our trade craft by giving us deeper insight and experience in the fields of growing, selling and making fine wines.
One thing that makes for a particularly difficult mission is when the winemaker and the grapes are separated, sometimes, by hundreds of miles. Such is the case of Michael Michaud and his vineyards, so with offices in Woodside, California, and vineyards in Pinnacles National Monument, Michael is particularly difficult to track down. Persistence and perseverance pay off, finally, and I manage to raise him on the phone. I cut to the chase and explain that it is his reputation for great Pinot that has led me to seek him out. Michael is warm and jovial as quickly recounts his 30-year journey, describing his winemaking past and the events that led to the purchase of his own vineyard in the land below Chalone Peak. It was near this same land where wine grapes were first planted in this region nearly a century prior. Today, Micheal makes his Pinot Noir from 5 different Dijon clonal selections, each contributing its own nuance and unique character to his wine.
Michael is passionate about his wines and he is involved at all levels; He is farmer, grower, chemist, winemaker and business manager. This shows in the wines that he crafts. His wines have a special character and quality that you don’t find in most mass-produced wines. Drinking a Michaud Pinot Noir gives me a special sense of the man and of the land that he so lovingly and meticulously tends.
Today’s exceptional wine is a Pinot Noir that expresses generous helpings of character, place and of personality – in a tight and flavor-filled package that drinks beautifully today and will cellar for an even richer experience.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Michaud vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
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About This Wine:
Release Date: September 2007
Case Production: 1220
Five clonal selections of Pinot Noir from Dijon have added vital clear fruit flavors and a round suppleness to the complex, dark fruit, wild and spicy character of the heritage clones grown in the Chalone appellation since 1946 $ 1970-72. This wine has good concentration and depth of flavor with balanced acidity and tannin. Complex flavors suggest ripe blackberry, currant and cherry flavors, complimented by subtle hints of herbs and spices. The mineral-like terrior of the Chalone appellation is expressed by the wine.
This wine is enjoyable now or may be cellared to acquire additional development over time. This Pinot Noir be be served with your favorite full flavored fish such as salmon, steel head, striped bass etc, fowl from chicken or quail and most meats: prime rib, prok roast or lamb, venison, elk or wild boar.
About The Winery:
The ideal of the winemaker’s craft is to make a wine that speaks of its origin, reflecting the soil, sun and grape varietal. It’s a tribute to the countless elements that make up its composition.
My passion is to produce wines that express the special qualities of the Chalone Appellation. It is a dry, mountainous region of Monterey County with a unique combination of soils and climate that have been recognized since the 1880s as being ideal for wine grapes.
I do all of the winemaking and most of the farming myself. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and staying directly involved. It’s the only way to be sure of quality.
I hope you enjoy the wines.
~ Michael Michaud
Michael’s admiration and respect for the intense conditions of Monterey County’s Chalone Appellation began when he became assistant winemaker at Chalone Vineyard in 1979, under the legendary Richard Graff. In 1983 he became winemaker and led the winery to outstanding reviews and accolades. His wines at Chalone were often awarded Wine Spectator magazine’s “Selection” and “Cellar Selection” designations, frequently scoring over 90 points. His Chalone Chardonnays are included in James Laube’s Great Chardonnays of California. Robert Parker has written favorably of his wines, particularly those made since 1990, calling Chalone “the Montrachet of California.”
In those words, Michael finds his greatest compliment and his greatest challenge. Today in California winemaking, much of the wine produced has lost its original varietal character in large scale farming and market driven winemaking.
Michaud wines, on the other hand, reveal both the intensity and the subtlety of the place where the grapes are grown. The carefully tended vineyards look quite improbable in the arid surroundings, where scorpions and rattlesnakes, coyotes and wild boar make their home.
Having started with a well-structured, multi-layered Chardonnay, Michael has expanded his vineyard plantings to include a complex Pinot Noir with vivid clear fruit flavors; a substantial Syrah with flavors of black cherry, blackberry and a hint of black pepper; a richly textured Sangiovese with a lingering finish; and a well-balanced Pinot Blanc that is both subtle and refreshing.
History – The Chalone Appellation was recognized in the early 80’s but its grape growing history stretches back to the turn of the Century. Curtis Tamm, a Frenchman, has been credited with establishing the first vineyard on the Chalone bench, an undulating hilly plateau that extends to the north and west from North Chalone Peak, the highest Mountain in the Gabilan Mountain Range – land described in Steinbeck’s “ East of Eden. ” Later in the early ‘20’s, a property to the East of the Tamm property, then owned by the Dyer family was sold to a gentleman named William Silvear. Silvear and his wife Agnes lived on their farm in Watsonville but it was Silvear’s passion to plant Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc (Melon de Bourgogne), Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. He succeeded in establishing approximately 15 acres just prior to prohibition and another 15 or so in the mid ‘40’s. The vineyard survived several subsequent owners and became what is now Chalone Vineyard. Prior agricultural activities, which included acorn harvesting and processing, were conducted by the Chalone or Soledad Indians, a tribe of the Costanoan Indians, who ranged from Atascadero to Marin.
Geography – The eastern skyline is dominated by the intriguing and mysterious Pinnacles, remnants of an old volcano born 28 million years ago. Eons prior to that, the land itself was born in the Pacific rift, what is now called Hawaii. Constant volcanic eruption at the rift has sent what is today called the Pacific Plate to the east, grinding away at the massive continental plate. The juncture called the San Andreas Fault circumnavigates the Pinnacles and passes 10 miles to the East. The resulting soil type is a decomposed granite – clay loam. The Pacific plate, submerged by the Pacific Ocean for most of its life, acquired numerous limestone deposits from the decay of marine organisms in this region. It is today one of the few places where granite and limestone are co-located, providing a well drained and mineral rich soil well suited to viticulture.
The region is ecologically described as a Chaparral community, receiving a modest 12-15 inches average rainfall. Additional irrigation water is supplemented by a well.
The Michaud Vineyard is situated at an altitude of 1500’ in the cooler northern end of the Chalone Appellation. Ample sun and daily temperature fluctuations of 40 to 60° F create unique growing conditions which yield a great depth of varietal flavor as well as a regionally defined compliment of mineral and spice characters (terroir).
48 barrels were produced
French Oak: Siruge, Remond, Latour
3-year air-dried wood, mostly Allier
50% new, 50% 1-3 yr old barrels
Optimum time for consumption:
2007 – 2018+
Harvest Date: 9/01 – 5/04
Grape Acidity: 6.8g/L
Grape pH: 3.43
Sugar at harvest: 21.1 Brix
Wine Acidity: 6.4g/L
Wine pH: 3.47
Wine Alcohol: 14.3%