Gavin Chanin lands cover of ‘Wine & Spirits’!
Gavin is named one of Santa Barbara’s “structuralists” in ‘Wine & Spirits’ October article, “The Shape of Chardonnays to Come.” It’s a great piece to learn more about where our Bien Nacido Chardonnay comes from. Below is an excerpt.
In Burgundy, it’s a common understanding that the concentration and depth that promote ageworthiness are a function not just of site, but also of vine age-of the vines digging in and accommodating themselves to the site’s soil and microclimate. But Santa Barbara, and California in general, present a challenge: If you aren’t making zin, there aren’t a whole lot of old vines to go around. Gavin Chanin of Chanin Wine Company makes wine from one of Bien Nacido Vineyard’s oldest chardonnay blocksin the nearby Santa Maria Valley, and will also soon be working with the old Sanford & Benedict planting under his Price Chanin label, which he recently launched with investor Bill Price.
Chanin was particularly clues in to the role of vine age after tasting at Domaine de L”Arlot in 2007. There he tasted seven different lots of pinot noir from Clos des Fộrets, all with different vine ages. “It was amazing how different the wines were,” he recalls. “As the vines got older, the wines got more minerality and depth to them, more spice, less fruit flavors. That was something I really took home with me.
“I think vine age is important for getting ripe fruit at low alcohol,” Chanin says. “So when I started my company, that’s what I went after.”
Chanin finds that the old vines naturally moderate yield and vigor. As a result, they don’t need to be manipulated as much. At Bien Nacido’s W Block, where he gets the chardonnay for his Bien Nacido bottling, there’s usually no need to top the vines during the growing season to get rid of excess vegetation, and no need to drop fruit to concentrate the flavors and speed the ripening process.
Chanin came to Bien Nacido in 2004, spending the summer between high school and college working with Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat, which is lovated on the property. Later, while pursuing his BA in art at UCLA, he continued to work harvests at Au Bon Climat and Qupé- which share a winemaking facility- eventually working his way up to assistant winemaker for the two wineries. He launched his own label in 2007.
One of his jobs was grape sampling the X Block syrah for Qupé winemaker Bob Lindquist. That’s when Chanin first saw the old chardonnay vines in the neighboring W Block. “That syrah was always killer, so I kept that in the back of my mind,” he says.
His 2009 Bien Nacido Chardonnay from W Block is a pure, crystalline wine, the flavors intense but almost weightless. The vineyard, on the other hand, doesn’t look terribly impressive: trellised, thick-trunked, healthy chardonnay vines on a slight incline. W Block was part of the Miller family’s original 1973 Bien Nacido planting. At first, it was planted to riesling on its own roots. Then, in 1990, they grafted it over to chardonnay. Even though the grafts themselves aren’t ancient, it’s vinifera on vinifera, not mediated by rootstock, and the roots systems at this point are fully mature. Chanin has found that the old W Block vines tend to produce a very mineral, racy chardonnay with great length.