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The Underground Wineletter’s John Tilson Raves about our 2019 Vintage!

The Underground Wineletter’s John Tilson Raves about our 2019 Vintage!

The Underground Wine Letter –



In 2011 I first tasted Chanin Wine Company wines from 2008 and 2009 as well as some barrel samples of 2010s. In September 2011, my first article on Chanin Wine Company also featured Au Bon Climat and Qupé and was entitled The Holy Trinity of Wineries (to read the article click here). Here is the introduction to that article:
These three wineries are housed in one facility in Santa Maria. Au Bon Climat Winery (which means“a well exposed vineyard”) was founded in 1982 by Jim Clendenen and Adam Tolmach. Qupé Winery was also started in 1982 by Bob Lindquist. Chanin Wine Company was started in 2007 by Gavin Chanin.
Au Bon Climat and Qupé are pioneer wineries in the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez area. Chanin is the new kid on the block. Here’s the connection. Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Adam Tolmach, and Tony Chanin started at Zaca Mesa Winery. Zaca Mesa was built in 1978 and was one of the earliest wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Tony Chanin is the nephew of my great long time friend Ed Lazarus who was one of the original editors of the old Underground Wineletter and is a contributing editor today to the new Underground. To learn more about wine, Tony and Jim started coming to some of the tastings we used to do for the old Underground. We would gather up the wines we wanted to taste, get some food, set a time and a place and then invite people to attend and share the cost. We did the tastings at different homes, but mostly at places like The Wine House in West Los Angeles which is still there and going strong today (, Red Carpet in Glendale (, and Lawry’s      California Center in Los Angeles (sadly closed many years ago). These wine tasting and food events were widely attended by many different people and Tony and Jim were amongst the youngest participants.

Later, as mentioned earlier, Jim would go on to start Au Bon Climat with Adam Tolmach and at the same time Bob Lindquist founded Qupé. Tony left and went back to join his family’s business. In 1991 Adam left Au Bob Climat to start Ojai Vineyards. Then, in 2004 after graduating from high school, Gavin Chanin, Tony’s son, started working summers at Au Bon Climat. He worked there during his college years (except for 2007 when he worked at wineries on South Africa and New Zealand). In 2007 he started Chanin Wine Company using a portion of the winery shared by Au Bon Climat and Qupé. In 2009 after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a major in art, he started working full time at Au Bon Climat and Qupé. What Jim, Bob, and Gavin all have in common is a dedication to making wine with minimal intervention. This winemaking trio (as well as Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards – watch for my upcoming article) (To read that article click here) makes wines that are balanced and develop and evolve over a long period of time. This is a trend that follows the philosophy of Paul Draper and Ridge Vineyards. (To read an article on Ridge Vineyards click here). Continuing the links between Au Bon Climat, Qupé, aand Chanin Wine Company, here is what I had to say about Adam Tolmach and Ojai Vineyards in the article referenced above: Adam is a quiet person with a stealth sense of humor. He is humble and down to earth. His old partner, Jim Clendenen, is a bit different being more gregarious and outgoing. But, even as their personalities may not be exactly the same, the style of wine produced by both is very similar. In fact, it seems fair to say that The Ojai Vineyard is very much related to what I have called the Holy Trinity of Winemaking (Au Bon Climat, Qupé, and Chanin)….  And, to carry it a step further, Ojai Vineyards may represent the fourth leg, albeit detached, on the stool!  All four of these wineries are dedicated to making wine in a classic style with finesse and flavor, but not overly alcoholic or over the top….Following this trend, I would later connect several more Central Coast wineries making wine in a traditional style in an article entitled World Class Central Coast Wineries. (To read that article click here).

About a year after the Holy Trinity of Wineries article appeared Gavin left to go to a new winery facility and devote his time to Chanin Wine Company. Since then he has now relocated in Lompoc where he has a spacious winery facility. Gavin is a talented, serious and hard working young man. He is also very fortunate to have been able to start his career at a very early age under the tutelage of two of California’s best vintners, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist. He actually worked for and lived with Jim Clendenen for several years which gave him tremendous insight and he has learned his lesson well. His wines have been consistently lovely and I have tasted and reviewed many of them in the last few years (To read some of those reviews follow these links: 2010 Chardonnay2010 Pinot Noir2011 Pinot Noir2012 Chardonnay and 2012 Pinot Noir).

Here is Gavin’s philosophy on making wine:

Chanin Wine Company is dedicated to crafting wines from Santa Barbara County that reflect the individual vineyard in which they are grown. We focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two grapes that are especially revealing of subtle differences in geography, geology and climate. Our grapes are grown in Santa Barbara County, where cool coastal winds, diverse marine based soils and a long growing season provide an exciting and unique environment for Burgundian varieties.
The vineyards are the focus of all of our wines and each wine is made from grapes grown at one vineyard and not blended. We search out old vines, and make wine from some of the oldest in the county. This allows us to make refreshingly balanced wines at lower alcohol levels than most California “blockbuster” or “cult” styled wines. Through low yields, improved farming techniques and gentle winemaking we aim to create a wine that pairs well with food and is delicious young, but is also age-worthy. All of our vineyards are organic or sustainably farmed.
Our winemaking philosophy is rooted in representing each individual vineyard by emphasizing balance, finesse, and complexity. We avoid excessive alcohol, and modern winemaking additives (such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, enzymes) that can overshadow vineyard characteristics. We also do not filter our wines or use intrusive wine processing machines. The goal is to grow grapes that are so healthy none of the above is needed

This introduction is taken from an article I published in 3/13/15 (to read the article click here).  Since that time we have lost a great man, winemaker, and Gavin’s mentor, Jim Clendenen (to read about Jim click here). But Gavin is now firmly established and making great wine that I am sure this was something that made Jim very proud. Gavin’s recent 2019 releases are simply stunning and represent the pinnacle of Santa Barbara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are delicious now and will age gracefully for many years into the future. Don’t miss them! They are cellar treasures!!


2019 Chanin Wine Company Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay
With a total production of 225 cases this is a beautifully crafted and delicious Chardonnay. It has a light yellow color with a faint golden hue and a lovely floral citrus tinged perfume with a hint of peach. Very elegant and finesseful with very pure fruit showing peach and citrus flavors this Chardonnay drinks beautifully now but will develop over an extended period into the future – Extraordinary.  $45

2019 Chanin Wine Company Los Alamos Vineyard Chardonnay
The total production of this wine was 475 cases. It has a light yellow color and a lovely floral perfume with a faint exotic tinge. With great finesse, balance, and elegance this is a Chardonnay with great early appeal but will age gracefully for many years into the future – Outstanding Plus.   $40

2019 Chanin Wine Company Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay
There were 275 cases of this wine produced. Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Chardonnay has a gorgeous floral citrus perfume with a faint exotic nuance. On the palate the wine has layers of very pure citrus tinged fruit with beautiful balance and great flavors. Absolutely delicious now but with more age it will show additional complexity over many years into the future – Extraordinary.    $50



2019 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
The production of this Pinot Noir was 225 cases. With a deep ruby red color it shows a gorgeous exotic tinged cherry perfume. On the palate it is supple, lush, and rounded with layers of floral tinged cherry fruit and is beautifully balanced, very refined and really delicious – Extraordinary.    $55

2019 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County
The production of this Pinot Noir was 200 cases. It has a light ruby red color and a cherry and berry perfume with floral undertones. With lots of very pure cherry and berry fruit it is very elegant, beautifully balanced with lots of early appeal with the promise of further evolution well into the future this is a really lovely Pinot Noir – Outstanding Plus.      $55

2019 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Sta Rita Hills
There were 275 cases of this Pinot Noir produced.  It has a deep red color and lovely floral berry perfume with a faint spice undertone. On the palate, there is an abundance of complex cherry and berry fruit with floral nuances and a long lasting finish. Supple, lush, and rounded this wine has great early appeal with the promise of a long life ahead – Outstanding Plus.     $60

2019 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Schock Family Vineyard Santa Barbara County
The production of this wine was only 75 cases. It has a deep red color and a lovely floral berry tinged perfume. On the palate it is very elegant and finesseful with layers of fruit accented by exotic floral undertones and a long finish – Outstanding Plus.    $65

2019 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Zotovich Vineyard Sta Rita Hills
There were 175 cases of this wine produced. With a deep ruby red color this Pinot Noir has a lovely exotic tinged mulberry perfume with a kiss of spice. It follows through on the palate with lots of lush mulberry and cherry tinged fruit with a faint floral spice undertone and a long finish – Extraordinary.      $65