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NM: How are you able to reconcile that high degree of trust you're placing in your palate and in your winemaking judgement overall with the fact that the reputation of this winery, with its a high profile in the marketplace, is resting on your shoulders?
JF: You can't think of that; you just have to do it. Not that I'm comparing myself to a great artist, but this is where the art comes in. If you knew that you were going to be making a masterpiece — say, if you were Michelangelo or DaVinci — would you really be able to start that project, focused only on what it would become? With wine, it's easier because you're under a time gun; each vintage dictates your pace. But the principle is the same. You can't focus on that big of a picture in the moment, otherwise it would drive you crazy! The only things I have are my palate, my past experiences, and my references, the people I can call. That's what I have. So, I really have to trust in my palate. And that's why you have winemaking practices, to have this frame of work that organizes you. But it's difficult, it's really difficult. It's hard to know, for example, in one vintage, if I should leave the wine on the skins longer or not, because I don't know what it's going to do. Every year, I gain knowledge — but then again, every vintage is different!
NM: And so, broadening the focus here, what have you learned in the process of making wine that you've been able to apply to your own life and personal growth?
JF: Hmm… Winemaking has so many different aspects to it. It has the science, it has the art, and then there's all the people you work with. It's a very interesting career. I think what I've learned in all this is the importance of being true to yourself; that's pretty much the bottom line. If I'm able to make a certain decision with some situation at work, then I should have the confidence in myself to do the same with life in general and really trust in myself and my abilities. You have to state your opinion, but there are many different ways to do that, to get your point across. So, it's about managing and working with people, but also about trusting in your abilities.
Trusting in ability is also what the Chalk Hill brand has enabled its customers to do. By crafting wines with grace, intensity, and character while staying true to its mission of expressing the nuances of its vineyards, Chalk Hill manages to strike a balance between consistency and singularity. To learn more about this producer and its portfolio of wines, visit Chalk Hill Estate online. Photo Credits: Terrence Ford, Sara Sanger, and Robert Mariano, all made available by Chalk Hill Estate.
Tasting Notes on the Chalk Hill Portfolio
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc: Highly pronounced aromas of white flower and white nectarine that come through on the palate along with a lemon creme flavor; a very rich, unctuous mouthfeel and lingering finish.
- 2006 "North Slope" Pinot Gris: Although shy on opening, eventually generous with aromas of ripe yellow peach and orange spice that come through on the palate along with pronounced flavors of toasted coconut and vanilla; savory & minerally on the midpalate, with a luscious mouthfeel and a long, white-peppery finish.
- 2006 Chardonnay: Pronounced aromas of white peaches and cream that come through on the palate along with flavors of toasty caramel, ripe pear and red apple; a creamy mouthfeel and long, minerally finish.
- 2006 Merlot: Generous aromas of bramble, tobacco, smokey black tea, and dried herbs, with pronounced flavors of black plum and boysenberry; firm and sandy, but ripe, tannins with a long, warmly spicy finish.
- 2005 Cabernet: Pronounced aromas of cassis and dried herbs, with flavors of ripe red berries and mocha; a soft, satiny texture and long, spicy finish.