The Importance of Chalone's History
The Influence of the Chalone Wine Group on the Region’s History
Tamm’s vines needed to be constantly irrigated in the arid, isolated soils. The fact that a Burgundian would go to such lengths to cultivate the region speaks volumes about Chalone’s remarkable and unique terroir. After Tam’s death, the vineyard was neglected for several years.
William and Agnes Silvear bought the 160 acre property in 1946. They planted 20 additional acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Phillip Togni produced the first wine labeled Chalone Vineyard in 1960.
Dick Graff purchased the property in 1965 and immediately began transforming it. In 1969, he shrewdly created the Chalone Wine Group to attract investment. He made his first commercial wine in 1969 and immediately had a devoted following. The business-minded Phil Woodward joined the group in 1972. Graff and Woodward’s success allowed them to build new winemaking facilities on the property in 1974.
Graff’s use of “sur lie” barrel aging and controlled malolactic fermentation in his white wines was characteristically Burgundian. These traditional methods were years ahead of their time and laid the basis for America’s love of Chardonnay.
Graff and Woodward decided to publicly offer stock in the company in 1980. In the same year, a partnership was formed with Paragon Vineyards. The shareholders have always had an intimate relationship with Chalone. They are invited to the legendary annual party on the property and account for a substantial percentage of the winery’s sales.
Cabernet Sauvignon was first planted in the mid 1980s. Caves were built on the property in 1984 and the vineyard was significantly expanded in 1989. Production is currently about 40,000 cases a year. The majority of this production is Chardonnay.
Chalone bought Acacia Vineyard in 1986. The group partnered with Domaines Barons de Rothschild in 1989. It is also a part owner of Canoe Ridge Vineyard in Washington.
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