2006 Pinot Noir, Chualar Canyon
Pinot Noir • Chualar Canyon Vineyard
California: Monterey County
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 even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from CRU Monterey.
SELL-OUT ALERT!: The CRU Chardonnay that we had on sale earlier today is no longer available. Instead, please enjoy their GREAT Pinot Noir
SHORT QUANTITY ALERT!: Today’s wine is scarce and we got our hands on the last few cases! If we run out today, we’ll put another wine on sale immediately, so please be sure to check back in throughout the day.
SAVINGS ALERT!: If you are lucky enough to grab 6 or more bottles of this great wine before we sell out, use coupon code SPYNOW and we’ll give you Free Ground Shipping
Mission Codename: Thank you, Mister Chular
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands, a region famous for producing what are arguably the finest Pinot Noir in California, and return with a fantastic Pinot for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: CRU Monterey
Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir Chular Canyon
Winemaker: Michael Levin
Backgrounder: Our Operatives know, but other folks are often surprised that Monterey County produces some of the finest Pinot Noir in California. The Wine Spies have featured Monterey County Pinot in prior missions and today we send Agent Red to CRU Monterey, where their Pinot Noir is among the best he has tasted from the region. With Summer now in full swing in California’s wine Country, Agent Red brings you a perfect springtime red wine. Read his tasting notes and mission report below for full details on this fantastic wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Perfect clarity with burgundy to red colors that maintain tight color concentration right to the edges of the wine, a bouncy surface, and wide-spaced legs that run down the glass at a rapid pace
Smell – A big bright nose of Pannetone (Italian Christmas cake) with fresh cherry, pomegranate and strawberry, plus the characteristic aromas of gunpowder and salt. The wine also displays subtle French characteristics with Earthy forest floor and dried herbs.
Feel – Soft and round up front, then big and bright with a slight tightening on the mid-palate and a grippiness on the lips
Taste – Delicious and bright with great fruits of cherry, raspberry and strawberry with the slightest earthen herbaceous quality
Finish – This wine continues long after its swallowed, with flavors and feelings that last a long time – to be replaced by the wines gentle tannins that dry the mouth slightly
Conclusion – What a wonderful surprise this wine was! On the recommendation of the winery, I had been sitting on the samples that I had procured from the winery for more than a month now. They kept insisting that I wait a little while longer to allow this wine to mature just a tad more. When I finally got the call from the winery, I immediately popped a bottle and then spent two days evaluating it for you. Day one the wine was perfect. It had balance and brightness and aromas that sang out. After a day in a re-corked bottle the wine was even better, exhibiting more roundness, gentler fruit and a more supple mouth-feel. We Wine Spies are very fond of wines from Monterey County’s, particularly Pinot Noir from the region.
It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying my morning espresso. I was sitting in an open air cafe, nestled among
apple trees, and I was just waking up. Suddenly, a loud voice shakes me further awake.
“S’up, yo?! What brings the Secret Agent Man to the S.L.H?!”
I didn’t need to turn around to know who it was. One of my newest assets, Codename: “Dawg”, had proven to be very useful at obtaining information for me, but he wasn’t the most subtle informant in the world.
Patiently and as quietly as possible, I said to him, “Good morning, Dawg. Lower your voice and sit.”
The joke was lost on him, but, obediently, he sat.
“Yo, Red, check it. Me and my crew, we just found you a killer new release, yo. Its a Pinot, direct from the S.L.H.. I know how much you dig those, yo. And check this, the name of the winery is CRU. That name is off the hook, yo.”
Usually my patience with Dawg is bolstered by the knowledge that he delivers great intel. Today, I was not in the mood.
“Listen, Dawg…. Duane. You are 42 years old. You are a chemical engineer. You have 2 PhDs, 3 kids, a loving wife and your crew consists of your wine buddies from work. For goodness sake, you drive a minivan, Duane. How about we lay off the schtick for today.”
Visibly dejected, Dawg took off his hip hop sunglasses, removed his faux-diamond encrusted grill and slumped into his chair.
“Awww, geez, red… Why do you have to ruin my cover like that?”
Calmly, I replied, “Sorry, Dawg. Its been a rough week. What do you have for me, something great?”
He perked up.
“Yeah, Red. Listen, I have a friend that works at CRU winery. I trust the guy implicitly and, heck, I am a member of the CRU wine club so I know they make great wine. Anyhow, I managed to get my hands on their newest vintage. You can’t even find this stuff for sale yet. He’s letting us drop the wine on the world early. Heck, we might even be the first to have it.”
Dawg then fell back into his character soon after, but at least he told me which dead-drop to find the wine samples at. I thanked him, tried to do some crazy handshake with him, bade him farewell and rushed to retrieve the wine.
Once back in my safehouse, I let the wine settle for a few days before opening it.
Monterey County, continues to impress and amaze me. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this region are fantastic and today’s Chard from CRU illustrates this point in perfect detail. Its simply delicious.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Cru Wines (Mariposa Wine Company) tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
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Our 2006 Chualar Canyon Pinot is delicate and feminine, with unmistakable Pinot Noir characters of forest floor, rhubarb and bright black cherry. The lively acidity in this wine is due to the vineyard’s northerly location, and in the mouth, the wine is reminiscent of black cherry chutney. The soft tannins can be attributed to our very gentle handling of this fragile variety and the use of only very fine grain oak in our barrel-aging regime. We used 40% new barrels; half French oak and half Hungarian.
The Vineyard and Vintage:
The Chualar Canyon Vineyard is the most northerly vineyard in the Salinas Valley, located only 10 miles from Monterey Bay and directly in line with its marine breezes. Consequently, it’s a very cool growing site. The block from which we pick our grapes is planted entirely to Dijon selections of Pinot Noir, and our ‘rows’ contain clones 667 and 777. Trellising is vertical (Vertical Shoot Positioning) to increase sun exposure in this unique site.
The 2006 growing season started with heavy winter rains, but the weather turned mild and dry for the rest of the year. There were very few dramatic heat spikes during the summer. The mild summer and a protracted Autumn allowed a long hang time for most varieties, which translated into relatively low acid levels and soft mouth-feel.
About The Winery:
Cru, a French term identifies prestigious vineyards and the wines made from them, embodying the classification of select vineyard sites and their unique indigenous style. After nearly 20 years crafting premium artisan style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Winemaker Michael Leven understands the intricacies involved in attaining this rare level of elevated distinction. Michael knows where the best vineyards are located, which blocks produce the most optimal fruit and has relationships with the farmers that tend them. Focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir exclusively CRU represents a marriage of site typicity and winemaking skill that elevates our wine to a level of Artistry not commonly found.
Focusing on Monterey County and other premium cool climate appellations, Michael is particularly fond of the superior quality fruit found in California’s coastal regions. Perfect for growing premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the temperate marine influenced climate of the upper Salinas Valley provides ideal conditions for these cool-weather varieties, and is the backbone of the CRU portfolio.
Varietal(s): 100% Pinot Noir
Harvest Date(s): October 9th, 2006
Average Brix at Harvest: 24.8
Total Acid/pH/RS: 0.675/3.79 /.01
Finished Alcohol: 14.7%
Bottling date(s): January 4, 2008
Total 9-liter cases: 225