Chalone Vineyard is in Soledad, above the Salinas Valley in Monterey County. The estate’s roots date to 1919, when a French immigrant planted grapes on the property. Its more recent history started in 1966, when Dick Graff purchased the property and made his first commercial Chardonnay. Today the 200-acre estate is owned by the Chalone Wine Group. Since the 1970s Chalone’s Chardonnays and Pinot Blancs have been highly regarded. Chalone also makes well reviewed Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Monterey AVA is in Monterey County, south of San Francisco. The long, narrow appellation is a 100-mile ribbon of land that extends from north Monterey County south to the edge of Paso Robles. Most of the AVA is considerably inland from the Pacific Coast, and to the east of the Santa Lucia mountain range. About 40,000 vineyard acres are inside the AVA, making it one of California’s larger appellations. Monterey County, in fact, produces almost as much wine as Napa County because the floor of the valley is taken up by large industrial vineyards producing grapes for bulk wine. However, there are also many premier wine estates within Monterey AVA and its numerous sub-appellations. Monterey AVA includes four recognized micro climates, ranging from a cool, maritime climate at the north end to what is known in California as a Region 4 climate in the south, meaning relatively hot and dry. Monterey AVA includes parts of Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley. More than 50% of the grapes grown in the Monterey AVA are Chardonnay, though the many terroirs and micro climates mean that numerous grapes grow well. Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel and Pinot Blanc are widely planted.
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.