Chalk Hill Winery is alive and well under the leadership of William Foley.
The iconic Sonoma County winery was founded by Frederick Furth in 1972. Furth was an attorney who came to believe that eastern Sonoma, and the Russian River valley in particular, had the potential to grow world-class wine grapes. The land proved him right.
Bill Foley purchased the property last year. The Chairman of a Fortune 500 company, Foley has led a double life as the proprietor of Foley Family Wines since 1996. His holdings include Lincourt Vineyards in Santa Barbara, the Napa cult Cabernet producer Merus, Firestone, Sebastiani, Three Rivers winery in Walla Walla, and a collection of well-known properties in New Zealand.
Under the direction of winemaker Linda Bishop Forbes, Chalk Hill is as good as ever. The white wines are 100% barrel fermented, using a combination of new and used French oak. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($25) exhibits good acidity, pungent grapefruit aromas and citrus flavors, and a healthy dose of residual sugar to make it popular with a broad segment of the public. The workhorse 2008 Estate Bottled Chardonnay ($35) is rich yet balanced, with notes of melon, pear and butterscotch augmented by suggestions of tropical fruit.
The reds exhibit depth and style, with power tempered by graceful old-vine fruit. The 2006 Cabernet ($55) is rich and luxurious, with notes of cedar, blackberry and vanilla. Even better is the 2007 Estate Red ($80), a seamless blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. Reminiscent of Joseph Phelps Insignia in style, it provides the same pleasure at half the price.
Although the property comprises over 1200 acres, only 277 acres of land are planted to grapevines at Chalk Hill. Many of the 60 vineyard plots date to the 1970s, and the winery is in a position to offer a distinctive product: fruit that is 100% estate-grown and estate-bottled, at a price which is reasonable for the quality in the bottle.