Friday, March 8, 2013

Clos La Chance Wines


The life of a wine writer looks pretty good - from a distance.  It's nice that I get to attend many fine wine tasting events, and nicer still that most of the wines I taste are pretty good.  It is tough, though, to make value judgments on wines at these events when I  have all of thirty seconds or so to see, swirl, sniff, sip and spit while trying to jot down something that sounds different than what I jotted down at the last table.

Clos LaChance is one of those wines I have experienced only at tasting events under those less-than-desirable circumstances - until I received samples of their wines from a publicist.  While he didn't introduce me to the Clos LaChance wines, he did give me an opportunity to write about the winery at greater length than I have in the past.

Bill and Brenda Murphy own and operate the 150-acre San Martin estate, which is sustainably certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.  The production facility is sustainable, as well.  The Murphys take seriously the honor of being "stewards of the land," but they also see their efforts producing a legacy for generations of Murphys to come.

Head winemaker Stephen Tebb and his staff have done a wonderful job, and I'm happy I had the chance to taste the wines from Clos LaChance.

What's in a name?  LaChance is Brenda Murphy's maiden name.  And the hummingbird on the label?  The winery is located at 1 Hummingbird Lane.


Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2009

This wine provides an interesting blend from the Central Coast: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 2% Merlot.  Nearly all the grapes are from the Clos La Chance estate vineyards - five percent come from CK Vines, an arm of Clos LaChance.

This is a Cabernet with a - pardon my rudeness - a big old' honker on it.  This nose overwhelms the sniffer with fruit aromas that are not a bit shy.  Ripe blackberry, plums and black cherry would be a treat by themselves.  Here, they get lots of help from the spice rack.  Clove, cinnamon, sage and nutmeg converge in a heady cedar box of smells.  It's a party for the olfactory sense, probably abetted by the Malbec.  The extra-spicy profile could also be due in part to the use of American oak in the aging program.  20 percent of the oak used is American, and five percent of it is new.  Of the French oak, 30 percent of it is new.  The wine spends 16 months aging in oak barrels.

In the mouth, blackberry and black cherry cola lead the way, while clove and a just a hint of orange peel linger on the finish.  The firm tannins provide ample framework for meat, but are not too stiff - the wine is a very pleasant solo quaff.  Alcohol is a manageable 13.5% abv and suggested retail is $15.

Clos La Chance Estate Zinfandel Central Coast 2010

This Zin is a fairly dark purple in the glass and has a rustic, brambly side showing on the nose.  Aromas of cherry and raspberry come forth with hints of sage and eucalyptus following.  The flavor profile leans heavily on fruit like blackberry and raspberry, plus a jazzy little kick of clove and elderberry.

The wine’s alcohol content is 14.5% abv, but it drinks smoother than that.  Look for this one to be a hit by the barbecue grill with steaks, sausages or pork chops.  The suggested retail price of this Zinfandel is $15.

Clos La Chance Chardonnay Monterey County 2011

An unoaked Chardonnay, this one really lets the grapes do the talking.  The nose is alive with tropical aromas - pineapple and a hint of banana.  The fruit steals the show on the palate, too.  Gentle grapefruit flavors join the pineapple with a burst of lemon to boot.  The finish is long, and it’s the grapefruit flavor that hangs around the longest.

The wine’s acidity is quite refreshing and the 13.5% abv number is moderate and mild.  Food pairing is a natural.  I think it will complement shellfish wonderfully.  At a retail price of $11, this Chardonnay is a great bargain, too.


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