Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Monterey Bay and Chardonnay

By JIM BEAUREGARD July 10. 2018 8:15PM

Monterey may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about wine, but it is one of several American Viticultural Areas in California.

Monterey is an agricultural district south of San Francisco and is a major vegetable growing region, the source of lettuce, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and other salad fixings — fact, it’s sometimes called “America’s salad bowl.”

Monterey is not, however, a typical wine region. It has little rainfall, and I mean very little, so that grapes cannot be produced without widespread irrigation.

Fortunately there is an underground river, the Salinas, that provides ample water for irrigation purposes, so the vines get what they need from the ground instead of the sky.

The region is fairly open to the Pacific Ocean, which means fogs and cooling wind that come in regularly, making it cooler overall than the regions to the north, on the other side of San Francisco.

Today, there are some 70,000 acres of vines planted and there are several regions within Monterey that have achieved American Viticultural Area status, including Monterey (as a whole), Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley, Chalone and Santa Lucia Highlands. The Monterey AVA is the overarching viticultural area, which includes most of the others.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Riesling, has been planted since the 1960s, and for a while there were some heavy-hitter red grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot though these reds have declined in production.

There is still variety, of course, and a different sense of terroir due to the generally cooler climate and the dryness of the air in the vineyards.

Here’s a Monterey white for summer: Chateau Julien 2013 Chardonnay, Monterey County, Calif., Brower Family, 13.5% abv.

Clear, and of a lemon-gold color in the glass, pale intensity, no obvious faults. The nose is clean and crisp, of medium intensity, with a variety of fruits.

It’s a dry chardonnay, with low tannin, higher than average acidity, due perhaps to the cooler climate overall, medium body, and primary flavor characteristics that include pear, peach, lemon, nectarine, and a hint of melon.

Quite a bit of variety on the way to its pleasing finish. Very good, ready to drink now, and just right for summer.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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