On a Mission

Somewhere Thea has a picture of me and the Chatom frog.

Somewhere Thea has a picture of me and the Chatom frog.

I failed again. On my most recent trip to CA, I swung by Murphys up in Calaveras County for a day, specifically to visit with El Jefe who had invited any wine blog folks who were arriving early for the Wine Blogger Conference to come on over and explore the town. Last year I tried to meet the owner of Chatom Vineyards and failed. She and my mother in law were high school classmates and I’ve been trying to meet her since I found that out. Sadly, I missed her again this year!  But being the winos we are Thea and I of course decided to taste through the line up and see what Chatom had to offer this year!

2006 Semillon: $16. Flowers, lemon, perfume, honey, pepper, lime, lemon, tart, dry.

2006 Sauvignon Blanc: $16. Lime, peach, spice, melon, pear, honey, flowers, honeysuckle.

2007 Chardonnay: $18. Stone fruit pear, cream, lime, lemon, orange, spice, nice structure.

2005 Gitano Sangiovese: $18. Strawberry, smoke, cracked pepper, red fruit, berries, raspberries, light, fruity.

2004 She Wines Red: $12. Deep re fruit, pepper, vanilla, raspberry, strawberry. Simple.

2005 Zinfandel: $19. Black currant, berry, pepper, spice, brown sugar, dry, redder in the mouth.

Tasting room.

Tasting room.

2005 Merlot: $20. Spiced plum, pepper, cranberry, pomegranate, vanilla, red fruit, spice, pepper, tart red fruit. One of my favorites, I bought a bottle, but sadly, it cooked in the car and that was the end of that. I’ve never had that happen before, even on super hot days, so honestly, it took me by surprise.

2005 Syrah: $23. Smoked meat, bacon, capfire, smoke, chocolate, dark, tannic.

2004 Esmerelda Syrah: $34. Raspberry, black cherry, dark chocolate, tart cherry, ripe red berries, cream, blackberry, nice round fruit, chocolate coffee beans. One of my perennial favorites, I still have some in my basement!

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: $26. Black fruit, blackberries, black cherry, vanilla, black currants, tannic.

2004 Vintage Port: $28. Raisins, sweet, dark fruit, blackberry syrup, thick.

Overall, I have to say that the price points and quality of the wines coming out of the Calaveras area surprises me. They’ve somehow managed to get quality up but keep prices way down. I only bought the one bottle since I just can’t keep up with the wine in my basement at the moment, which in hindsight seems to have been a good decision given that the weather cooked the bottle I did buy.  I’ll be back again in the future as I continue my quest to meet the owner!

A Chardonnay Kinda Day

I decided to serve a creamy chicken casserole the other night and thought rather than go in stark contrast and try to cut the cream by serving my usual Sauvignon Blanc, that I’d instead try to marry the flavors and serve a Chardonnay.  My choice also became inspired by the fact that we really only have Chardonnay left in the basement for whites…how that happened, I have no idea!  I picked the 2006 Chatom Chardonnay that I bought on my trip up to Calaveras last fall.  It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and cost me $12.60 at the winery.

On the nose I found spiced pear, apple, lemon, apple butter, and cream. I liked the nose on this one a lot!  In the mouth I got tart fruit, pear, apple, lemon, peach, honey on the back palate, and pretty spicy! Overall, I thought the wine had a nice flavor and was just crisp enough to cut through a bit of the cream in my casserole!

Chilling at Chatom


I had one full day to spend in Murphys so I wanted to make the most of it. Murphys boasts around 20 wineries these days, which made it impossible to visit anywhere near all of them…but I sure took a shot at it! Sadly, I failed miserably, but the wineries I did manage to visit are certainly all worth a look if you make it out to Murphys.


First thing in the morning I stopped by Chatom Vineyards. Now, as you may recall, I reviewed their 2003 Esmerelda Syrah about a year and a half ago, after my mother in law went to her high school reunion and discovered several of her classmates owned vineyards, one of which is Chatom. So I made sure to stop by there to check out the rest of their offerings.

I showed up to Chatom slightly before they officially open, but as I quickly discovered in Murphys, if someone is at the tasting room, the doors are open for you to come in and taste. Chatom had a gorgeous porch area with tables where it would have been a perfect day to enjoy some wine and a light lunch. The tasting room itself is on the small side, however, the bar is good sized, and as it was just me, it worked out perfectly.

2006 She Wines White: $12. Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend. Pineapple, pear, apple, crisp but seemed to have some sweetness/sugar to it. All the profits from this wine benefit American Cancer Society.

2006 Sauvignon Blanc: $16. Light, tropical, pineapple, peach, crisp, very nice.

2005 Semillon: $16. Pear, banana, apple, light, very different. I don’t think I’ve ever had a 100% Semillon before.

2006 Chardonnay: $18. Nice nose of pear, apple, green apple, green pepper, flowers. Stainless steel fermented. Very well done, I took one home.


2005 Gitano Sangiovese: $16. Strawberry, cherry, vanilla, earthy, nice, light mouthfeel. One of my favorites of the tasting.

2004 She Wines Red: $12. Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Touriga Nacional blend. Raspberry, cherry, red fruit, tart. The profits from this wine benefit the American Heart Association.

2004 Zinfandel: $18. Blackberry, chocolate, plum, fresh tart fruit, slight oak, cherry, red in the mouth.

2004 Merlot: $20. Berries, plums, chocolate, red raspberries, juicy fruit, tannins, yum. I purchased one bottle.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: $26. Earth, leather, forest, red fruit, coffee, raspberries, tannic.

2004 Syrah: $22. Dark charred meat, slight dark fruit, black cherries, tannins, toasted caramel, dark fruit.

2004 Esmeralda Syrah: $34. Chocolate, red berries, jam, cherry, red fruit, anise, nice finish. I loved this yet again and brought one home.

2004 Vintage Port: $28. Chocolate liquors, Tinto Cao, Sousa, Alvarelho, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barola, Chocolate, candied raisins, light, nice mouthfeel.

Wine Gifts are Great!

Tonight we drank one of the bottles of wine that my mother in-law sent us. As I mentioned before, when she went to her high school reunion in CA she discovered that several of her classmates own vineyards and she decided to send me a bottle from each to try. The first one we have consumed is a 2003 Chatom Vineyards Esmeralda Syrah. From the website I can see that it runs $34, is 14.5% alcohol by volume and has a real cork closure. Chatom Vineyards is located in Calaveras County in Esmeralda Valley from which this wine takes its name. It also appears that this Syrah won a bronze medal in the 2006 San Fransisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I believe this is my first bottle of wine from Calaveras County, though it won’t be my last as I’ve got a Twisted Oak Verdelho that just arrived from WineQ waiting for me!

Oh yes, the wine! Decant it. The alcohol on the nose took quite a while to blow off, over an hour in the glass I’d say. I served the wine with some freshly made tomato sauce, pasta and parmasean cheese. Aromas of cherries, spices, oak and dark chocolate could be found on the nose. The nose was complex, with the aromas showing better after sitting out and more layers appearing over the next hours. In the mouth, the flavors were cherries, raspberries and plums, with a lingering spicy note. The finish was long, lasting at least 10 seconds or so.

Overall the wine was a good match for the dinner, with the spicy notes complementing my sauce nicely. I liked the style of the wine, it was quite well balanced and I think I would serve it with roasted lamb or a nice bbq if I had another bottle.

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