Santa Barbara County region
The inaugural release collected critical acclaim, making Chesterfield Cellars a hidden gem well worth keeping an eye on.
This month’s Gold Wine Club selection comes from the microscopic Santa Barbara winery Chesterfield Cellars, one of the secret darlings of California’s Central Coast.
When David Chesterfield was a business student at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1972, one of his electives was a wine appreciation course - it instilled in him an interest in the intricacies of wineries and winemaking. After graduating and moving to California, Chesterfield investigated the developing wine country and traveled throughout France where he spent some inspirational time in Bordeaux with wine guru, Alex Lichine. In the meantime, Linda Stark, a California native attending U.C. Santa Barbara, was honing her own palate and knowledge base by exploring the fledgling wineries in nearby Santa Ynez Valley.
The Chesterfields married in Santa Barbara in 1990 where they enjoyed visiting Central and Northern California’s wine regions and developing discerning palates for wines. The two hoped to one day own a winery of their own where they could produce the type of wines they truly enjoyed.
Determined to be in the wine business, the two embarked on a new idea for the industry in 1992 – a wine of the month club. While traveling and tasting great wines from small, unknown family wineries, David and Linda decided that they could help these fledgling wineries by becoming their distribution and marketing arms. Thus, Gold Medal Wine Club was born. In the coming years, the twosome would procure medal winning wines, write the marketing materials and ship to their members throughout the U.S.
By 2005, the pair finally decided to do something about their dreams of owning a winery. The Chesterfields enlisted the help of good friend Andrew Murray (the San Francisco Chronicle called him the 'Central Coast’s Wine Whiz Kid’) who agreed to help source and make the wines for the newly formed Chesterfield Cellars. Murray’s resume was world class and gave the Chesterfields a real shot at success. Their inaugural release collected critical acclaim, making David and Linda’s small-production Chesterfield Cellars, a hidden gem well worth keeping an eye on.
From the beginning, it was the Chesterfields’ aim to only produce outstanding wine. “We both agreed that a major investment in either land or equipment wasn’t a smart idea,” Linda Chesterfield continued. “We decided to wait until exceptional fruit could be found that would guarantee the wine produced would have a reasonable chance at becoming successful. If we couldn’t locate the fruit, we would simply pass on that year. We decided to become a niche winery known for quality rather than an entity that might or might not produce great wines.” “And,” added David Chesterfield, “neither of us wanted to wait the years it would take to find the right land and plant our own vines.”
“We began seeing some amazing wines coming out of the areas around San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and specifically the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. We got together with our new winemaker, Nick Morello of Morello Wines, and we started to track the fruit that was being produced. We were amazed by the quality of the fruit and the diverse terroir of the region.”
Stories like that of Linda and David Chesterfield are good for the wine industry. Anytime a couple can fulfill their dreams and in the process contribute quality products to wine loving consumers it’s a definite plus for everyone involved.
It is a pleasure to introduce Chesterfield Cellars to our Gold Wine Club members. This offering is another excellent opportunity to enjoy elegant wines at a most reasonable price.
California's Central Coast
California’s Central Coast is a large American Viticulture Area (AVA) stretching from south of San Francisco all the way to Santa Barbara. Roughly 250 miles long, the 40 AVAs specialize in a wide variety of grapes offering some of California’s most intriguing wines. The Central Coast is planted with 90,300 acres of vineyards, the most widely planted is Chardonnay. San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Santa Barbara County AVAs, from which this month’s wines were sourced, produce outstanding wines.
SLO Coast is the seafront side of the Santa Lucia Mountain range. It starts as a thin strip in the north and begins to widen as you head southward. Most notable is the geographical orientation which runs east-west. The ocean influence is considered of utmost importance – cool fog blanketing the vineyards until late morning, helping to achieve one of the world’s longest growing season for the grapes to achieve maximum ripeness. Moving further inland the region is warm enough to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. The varied soils of fossilized shells, shale and sand create wines with energetic acidity.
Santa Barbara County is literally Sideways. The hit wine movie’s title hints at the geography of this wine region. Its transverse, east-west orientation creates the perfect conditions for cool climate wines (like Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay). Sandwiched between two mountain ranges with elevations ranging between 200 feet and 3400 feet, the soils range from pockets of calcareous limestone that help maintain acidity, diatomaceous earth that create concentrated wines, sandy soils for more fruit driven styles and clay loam that help retain moisture for the thirsty vines. Santa Barbara County is characterized by lots of sunshine, extremely long growing periods and little to no rainfall, especially during the harvest period. All these components create wines that are truly representative of the terroir.
Some believe ‘legs’, or the remnants of the wine as it drips down the glass can give the best indication to what component of wine?
Legs are the streaks that appear after giving your wine a swirl in the glass and are a great indicator of the wine’s alcohol content. There has always been a misconception that a wine with ‘legs’ indicates the wines sweetness however that is not the case as it only refers to the alcohol content. Generally speaking, wines with ‘great legs’ are full-bodied and have relatively high alcohol contents. Characteristics of great legs often appear on the glass as a slow drip, thick or long streaks.
What is the biggest region for Sauvignon Blanc production?
France is currently the biggest producer of Sauvignon Blanc with a lot of acclaimed wine coming out of the famous Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc is known as a green skin grape varietal that originated in France’s Bordeaux region but is one of the most widely planted wine grapes in the world due to its adaptability to different winemaking styles and flavors. Although it is classically light and herbaceous in taste it is highly versatile and can take on a wide range of flavors depending on the region it was grown in.
Which Old World region produces red wines most similar to California reds?
Tuscany, Italy produces reds that are most similar to California reds. Tuscany’s climate is the most similar to that of California, with both having long growing seasons. Tuscany and California both have similar topography as the grapes are typically grown between 500–1600 feet altitude. This drastic altitude change brings with it diurnal temperature variation which is the variation between high and low temperature that occurs on the same day that in turn helps the grapes maintain a healthy balance of sugar and acidity. This variation that allows the grapes to be in hot weather during the day and cool weather at night helps lengthen their growing cycle.
A family Affair
The fact that Chesterfield Cellars is a indeed family affair makes it difficult to spotlight a single individual that could be credited with the entity’s success. Since the winery’s inception ten years ago, both David and Linda Chesterfield have contributed equally to the operation in different but complementary ways. David oversees the sourcing and production aspects for Chesterfield Cellars while Linda provides the sales, distribution and accounting side. Both are involved in the day-to-day management and operations. Their daughter, Kelsey, is involved in many aspects of sourcing and marketing for Chesterfield Cellars, while their son, Brett caught the entrepreneurial bug and has started his own business with his wife, Carly.
Both principals are elated at the success of their nine-year old tasting facility, Corks and Crowns (www.CorksandCrowns.com), located in Santa Barbara’s eclectic ‘Funk Zone’. The Funk Zone (Where History Becomes Hip) hosts a remarkable 25+ winery tasting venues, along with artisan shops, art galleries, hip restaurants, microbreweries and a distillery. The Funk Zone is a definite must-see when exploring Santa Barbara and its inviting community.
Cork n' Crowns has become the place to wine-taste by offering not only Chesterfield Cellars wines but a wide range of ultra and luxury premium wines from small-production wineries throughout the state. Nowhere else in the area can you taste individual flights of wine ranging in value from $20-$150 per bottle—all medal-winners or rated 90+ points. They also have flights of craft beers available (crowns, are the craft beer bottle tops). Together with comfy, relaxed décor and a cozy fireplace in the corner, it’s no wonder the tasting room draws a crowd!
The Chesterfields also happen to be the proprietors of Gold Medal Wine Club which they started back in 1992. For 28 years, Gold Medal Wine Club has introduced thousands of small, family-owned wineries to members across the country. Launched at a time even before wineries had their own wine clubs, David and Linda recognized the beginnings of a direct-to-consumer thirst for high-quality, small-production wines not readily available in local markets. These small, family-owned wineries who were essentially farmers concentrating on growing grapes and making wine, now had a marketing partner with whom to introduce their artisan wines directly to consumers across the country.
That demand continues ever stronger today as the number of small wineries in California has exploded. Every small winery has an intriguing story to tell. What are the backgrounds of the owners? How did they get into the wine business? What is their vision? These questions and more are answered in the club’s various newsletter publications put together by the professional marketing team at GMWC.
Each and every wine featured in the wine club is poured at their Corks n' Crowns tasting room. Club members enjoy the benefits such as free flight tastings for themselves and up to four guests in attendance as well as reduced prices for special events. The Chesterfields personally invite all members of Gold Medal Wine Club for a free tasting should you find yourself in beautiful Santa Barbara!
Nick Morello - Winemaker
Nick is certainly a man with many varied interests. He has already pursued careers in the oil business and as a professional golfer (he played several years on the Nike Tour) prior to becoming interested in wine. He is also another of the cadre of California winemakers produced by the University of California Davis’s esteemed Viticulture/Enology department.
Experience wise, Morello entered the wine workplace in 1998 and became a head winemaker in 2003 with Leona Valley Winery, located in Northern Los Angeles County. After six years, he left to devote his time to his own brand, Morello Wines, a company that has enjoyed a great deal of success in Santa Barbara County producing small lot wines. He also presently consults for a few wineries in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast.
Nick Morello’s passions are terroir driven wines. “The important thing is making a truly balanced wine,” he recently commented. “That’s where the real talent comes in winemaking. Many people can make wines, but only a few can make a real wine that accurately reflects the terroir of the land on which the grapes were grown.”
Morello is also an advocate of bio-dynamic farming and an expert on the many varied AVA’s of Santa Barbara County. He has developed long-term relationships with top growers that assure his wineries an ample supply of quality fruit from which to select. Nick Morello also heaps praise on Robert Mondavi Winemaker Genevieve Janssens as his principal influence in the wine industry. He strongly embraces her philosophy that creativity in wines comes from within utilizing traditional winemaking practices.
Lodi Wine Country
The Lodi Wine Country has emerged as one of California’s most popular wine destinations, finally attracting the attention it deserves. The Lodi AVA was so designated in 1986 and encompasses a large growing area south of Sacramento and northeast of Stockton, California. It is multi-faceted land bounded by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains Range. At present, more than 100,000 acres are planted to grapevines making the Lodi AVA the largest grape producing region in the United States. More than 80 bonded wineries exist within the AVA’s boundaries and the number is increasing every year. In fact, many wine enthusiasts are surprised to learn that Lodi vineyards produce more wine than Napa and Sonoma combined.
While an actual part of the great Central Valley, Lodi’s unique position opposite the wind gap leading inland from the Golden Gate Bridge affords a temperature range that is narrower than in other parts of the Central Valley. This allows for excellent climactic conditions and grape vines that enjoy great duration. There are numerous ‘old vine’ plantings that are more than 100 years old and still productive. Lodi is widely known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World with vines dating back to 1888. But few people outside of the wine industry realize that Lodi is also North America’s leading producer of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
However, the real story is the diversity of plantings. Right now, more than 50 types of varietals thrive in the Lodi AVA’s distinctive terroir, from the Burgundian Chardonnay to the more complex Alvarelhão red wine of Portugal. Wines made from these exotic varietals are readily available for the wine novice and wine connoisseur alike who are interested in exploring unfamiliar varietals.
There is a saying around Lodi that there is a varietal grown for everyone’s taste - the only challenge is finding your favorite.