Monday, December 6, 2010

HAPPY CANYON VINEYARDS CHUKKER 2009


Happy Canyon Chukker

Long a superlative winemaker in Santa Barbara County, Doug Margerum gets his Chin-on with a Happy Canyon Cabernet Franc blend called Chukker.

The label explains that "chukker" is a playing period in a polo game.  The popularity of polo in some of Santa Barbara’s wealthy ‘burbs would explain that facet of the definition, but the word descends from a circular concept in Eastern languages.  To find that the wine sits round and full in the mouth is no surprise.

Dark ruby in color, the nose is absolutely alive with jammy berry aromas and the full fruit flavors could scarcely be richer.  There is a faint suggestion of gaminess on the finish, and an acidity which would make you confident to serve it with anything.  The wine uses vibrancy as its calling card.  The alcohol level is 14.1% abv and it shows it upon opening the bottle.  Allow a little breathing time and the heat settles down.  I paid $13 for Chukker at a wine store.

The winemaker notes suggest that this wine is all about the spring portion of the calendar, so by that standard I’m a little out of season here in the Northern Hemisphere.  Margerum explains this wine was inspired by the Loire Valley wines drunk slightly cool in the Paris bistros.  He advises you drink Chukker the same way, although I drank mine above cellar temperature and was quite pleased.

The grapes are estate grown Cabernet Franc (40%), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%).  Not listed on the label is a hint of Syrah which Margerum cops to on his website.  The grapes are all fermented in stainless steel, giving the sort of freshness one might look for in the spring.  The circular concept come into play again, and spring always gives way to summer, then autumn.

Pay attention to that "everything comes around" philosophy - don’t skip over this wine as a potential mate for your holiday meals.  Think of it as another dish of cranberry sauce on the table, but one that will go with your turkey and stuffing - or goose - much better.

I mentioned that in a brief email to Doug's brother, Hugh, and he replied, "Yes, it's a perfect match with holiday fare.  A little like a Beaujolais Nouveau, but with a bit more punch."