Changes afoot on River Road Wine Trail

February 9, 2016 – Driving down River Road these days, you might wonder what’s up with the vineyard planted where Reggie Hammond’s tasting room once sat, in the days before Marilyn Remark moved into town and Denis Hoey of Odonata moved in next door. The property is owned by Scheid, and they’ve planted some very exclusive clones of Chardonnay and Pinot for a very high-end wine program. Some exciting ideas for the parcel are being kicked around at Scheid HQ, but they will have to wait, as Scheid has been a little busy lately.

A spectacular deck has been added in the Viento Vineyard for trade and media visits, and remodeling is underway in the Greenfield tasting room, where they’re adding a catering kitchen: they hope to have this finished shortly. And, there are changes afoot for the Carmel tasting room as well, which are due in the summer timeframe. They’ve also launched many new brands, including Metz Road, with a focus on sustainably farmed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from single vineyard sites.

The 2012 Metz Road vintages are now available in the market, and they are a lovely example of what winemaker Dave Nagengast can do with premium fruit chosen from the top blocks harvested from their estate vineyards. For the juicy, raspberry truffle meets dark cherry-pomegranate soda, the 2012 Pinot Noir ($34.99) hails from the Viento Vineyard, which means “wind” in Spanish. The 2012 Chardonnay ($29.99) comes from the Riverview Vineyard, Scheid’s northernmost vineyard, near Soledad. Barrel-aged for 18 months in 60% new French, this is creamy-dreamy, with warm flavors of buttery apple strudel with a lemon-cream drizzle of gently persistent acidity, finished off with a finish of honey-drenched biscuits with crème fraiche.

It’s Valentine’s weekend, time for River Road Passport, slated for this Saturday, February 13. It’s undoubtedly one of the region’s most beloved events. For those of you lucky enough to get tickets —it sold out almost immediately, even with an increased price of $55 — you’ll notice a few changes.

This year, you won’t find Talbott or Boekenoogen on the hit parade: Talbott closed their River Road tasting room (boo, hiss), and Boekenoogen simply doesn’t have enough wine to support an event of this magnitude. Wrath exited the event years ago for the same reason. What you will find is a lot of great food and music to keep the “Sweetheart of a Wine Tasting” lively.

You’ll notice some great changes at Pessagno, where they’ve remodeled the entire tasting room and put in an outdoor tasting area/rail overlooking the fields. Talk about getting right into the aromas and sights of East of Eden.

Some of the food planned for the event includes:

Scheid – Pizza oven: “On Fire” Mobile Pizza Service

Ventana – half sandwiches made by The Wharf Marketplace and dessert by Maxwell & Oliver

Paraiso – small bites from Portobello’s

Hahn – clam chowder by Chef Dyon Foster (made with Pinot Gris), 3 types of sausages from Cowboy Butch (made with Hahn wine), chili (also made with wine, by Cowboy Butch) and chocolate toffee (again, made with wine – what else!)

Puma Road – Mike’s ribs, sausage, chili and garlic bread

Manzoni – Swiss sausage by Elle Almond and Cheese Fondue by Sabrina

Pessagno – Bobby’s famous Polenta and Beef Stew, plus Sausage

Odonata – Uncie Ro’s Italian Catering

Speaking of food, rumor has it that River Road Grill, site of the former “Elements,” will be opening by the beginning of March. Can’t wait for that.

The River Road Wine Trail website is undergoing a total revamp to provide an interactive map that works on mobile devices as well as desktops.

And the rumor we reported a couple of weeks back has been confirmed. Foley Family Wines has acquired the Chalone Estate Vineyard brand from Diageo, along with 1000 contiguous acres, 240 of which are planted to vines at 1800 feet above the Salinas Valley. Chalone Estate Vineyard is the sole winery in the Chalone American Viticultural Area (AVA), the only winery in the US with an AVA was named for it. Production under the brand began in 1960. Dick Graff purchased the property in 1965, and after many iterations of ownership, Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines purchased Chalone Vineyard in December 2004. Robert Cook has been winemaker for the brand since 2007.

Chalone is the oldest producing vineyard in Monterey County, famous for its estate Chenin Blanc, produced from plantings going back to 1919. The sale also includes the Gavilan brand, which was reintroduced by Diageo in 2012, after a ten-year hiatus.

The limestone-based soils of Chalone Estate produce wines of renowned elegance and minerality, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of “Judgement of Paris” of 1976, where French wines went head to head in a blind tasting with upstart brands from California. The wine world was stunned when three of the top five white wines were from California. Chalone Estate’s 1974 vintage Chardonnay placed third.

In case you wondered, Bill Foley has a pretty good track record of picking wineries: he’s already snapped up Lincourt (Solvang), Kuleto (Napa), Roth (Sonoma), Chalk Hill (Sonoma) and nearly a dozen others. And he’s good at stock picking, too. Foley is Chairman of the Board of Directors for Fidelity National Financial, Inc., as well as Vice Chairman of Fidelity National Information Services.

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