A few weeks back I had the opportunity to visit the historic estate at Chalk Hill. Founded in 1972, their tasting room overlooks their beautiful and picturesque vineyards. The long journey through their impressive tasting lineup was guided by a former Gonzaga University professor who decided to move to the Sonoma area after a long career of teaching. Proprietor Bill Foley is one of the bigger names in California wines. The University of Washington law school grad (1974) has amassed 13 wineries all over the world, including Chalk Hill estates. Chalk Hill is particularly known for their Chardonnay and they poured three of their famous Chardonnays side by side to see the difference in flavor profile based on the clones.
Their 2012 reds were rich, tannic and nowhere near drinking window but hit you in the head with intensity and depth. Named after their proprietor, their $160 retail 2012 William Foley Cabernet has potential to be a magnificent wine, with classic blackberry and creme de cassis flavors. Many Chalk Hill wines aren't distributed in the northwest but you can find their Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay at northwest wine shops, some QFCs and higher end supermarkets like Metropolitan market. Here are some of the fantastic new releases from Chalk Hill.
2012 Chalk Hill North Slope Pinot Gris-The winery only bottling was made with neutral oak, but you wouldn’t tell that from the nose. In the glass you notice aromas of buttered toast, pear and golden delicious. Nice minerality that leads to flavors of pear, red delicious and lychee. The brightness of this wine stands out. -90
2013 Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc- One of their more famous bottlings that is a lovely expression of Sav Blanc and one of the best in the valley. The nose opens with gooseberry and grapefruit which leads to bright acidity and rich mouthfeel. Flavors of green apple, grapefruit and lemon zest persist in this nicely layered wine. This is one to buy by the case. -92
2013 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay- This is their most popular bottling of Chardonnay that is comprised of a combination of 16 clones of Chardonnay. The wine opens with aromas of buttered popcorn, pear and golden delicious apple. Nice density and weight, leading to flavors of pineapple, pear and golden delicious with brioche. Like their Sav Blanc, this is nicely balanced with minerality. Drink now. -92
2012 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Clone 17-This one is a winery only bottling that has a different, more earthy, nose than the Estate bottling. The aromas are reminiscent of has mushroom, and forest floor, alongside golden delicious and pear. Exceptional brightness in this mineral driven effort. Nice richness on the mouthfeel, leading to flavors of golden delicious, pear and a long cream finish. This is one of the best Sonoma Chardonnay bottlings I’ve sampled this year. Drink now. -94
2012 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Clone 809- Somewhat atypical to both the other Chards, the wine has more of a tropical fruit nose that reminds of me apricot, pineapple and some golden delicious apple. Generous mouthfeel with good persistence, leading to flavors of pineapple, golden delicious and a long cream finish. Nice richness and depth from this wine that is a slight step behind its Clone 17 counterpart. -92
2013 Chalk Hill Rose- This 250 case production, winery only bottling, was made from Malbec from their estate vineyard and is probably the only wine from Sonoma that I’ve had made from that varietal. The wine opens with aromas of mushroom, strawberry starburst and guava. Good mineral backbone, leading to more simplistic flavors of pear, red delicious, watermelon. A great summer sipper. -88
2012 Chalk Hill Russian River Pinot Noir- This bottling has a more fruit driven nose and flavor profile than its Mount Eden Clone counterpart. There are classic Sonoma Pinot aromas of raspberry, cherry cola and lavender. Nice mineral backbone on the mid-palate, which leads to flavors of nutmeg, cherry cola and raspberry. This bottling impresses for the price.Drinking great now, drink 2015-2022. -92
2013 Chalk Hill Mount Eden Clone Pinot Noir- This is their winery only bottling that is a more herbaceous showing. Aromas of raspberry and dried herbs on the nose with red cherry perisist. Great acid backbone leading to delicious flavors of red currant, raspberry and cran-cherry. Not a cherry bomb and needs a bit of time. Drink 2016-2024 -91
2013 Chalk Hill Zinfandel- Zin from the Russian River Valley that saw 10 months in nearly 60% new French oak. This Zin is not widely distributed but impresses nonetheless, weighing in at 15% alcohol. The wine has a nice dark color that leads to aromas reminiscent of blackberry, bramble and raspberry. Flavors of raspberry, black cherry and strawberry jam persist. Nice minerality, as this is fruity but balanced and can improve with another year in the cellar. Drink 2016-2023. -91
2012 Chalk Hill Clara's Vineyard- This is a Cabernet dominant wine, blended with 20% Petite Verdot and 20% Malbec. The wine is a dark purple that opens with aromas of creme de cassis, mocha, the classic Sonoma profile. Flavors of mocha, creme de cassis and anise persist with nice depth and richness. This dense wine is a sleeping giant that needs a ton of time. Drink 2020-2030 -94
2011 Chalk Hill Estate Red- Interesting blend here with 47% Malbec, 28% Cabernet, 12% Petite Verdot, 11% Syrah and 3% Carmenere, as they elected not to use any Merlot. One of the few Malbec dominant blends I’ve ever had from Sonoma. This wine is from a more difficult vintage and is done in a more restrained style. The nose opens with aromas of creme de cassis and blackberry. The palate is shut down and will need at least two years for the fruit to fully integrate. There are flavors of blackberry, anise along moderate tannins I’d cellar this one for a while but this wine is showing good potential despite the colder vintage. Drink 2019 on. -92
2012 Chalk Hill William P. Foley Cabernet- This is Chalk Hills most esteemed Cabernet wine. This is a dense Cabernet that will need a ton of time to fully come together. There are wonderful aromas of graphite and blackberry with creme de cassis. The depth and richness is there. Flavors reminscent of blackberry, graphite and creme de cassis persist. A sleeping giant. Drink 2019-2030 -95