December 9, 2014 – One of the most beautiful ways to truly experience the soul of a wine is to drink it in the vineyard where it was born. One spring day, winemaker Ian Brand and I did just that, at the top of the precipitously steep mountain that is Coastview Vineyard, high in the Gabilan Mountains east of 101, off the Chualar exit. Getting there was a trip like none other.
The car, ill-suited to a washed out dirt road, struggled through running streams, threaded its way between rockslides and over ravine-like ruts on its way to sure ruin. At any moment, the climb to the top threatened to come to a premature end, in a quest for terroir that bordered on terror.
Luckily, Brand hails from Connecticut where winter driving is learned early, plus his stints tracking endangered species in the Forest and Park Services engrained in him a sense of finesse for handling crappy roads. But apparently not this crappy. Abandoning the car, we hiked the steep, low-trellised vineyards on our way to a sweeping birds of prey view of the entire Salinas Valley, 2,200 feet below.
Shimmering to the west, lay the Santa Lucia Highlands: looking down on them, we cracked open a bottle of splendidly racy 2008 Coastview Chardonnay. The air was as pure as light and the breezes tickled the new vine shoots with a tease of marine coolness as the fog melted in the sunshine. The sun, was in fact so strong, amplified by altitude, that its rays beamed through the glass of Chardonnay, setting fire to the plastic foam covered picnic table. An electric, memorable experiece: much like the wines.
This is a healthy ecosystem, teaming with ladybugs, clover, chamomile, mushrooms, a multitude of wildflowers and joyful choruses of poppies. The only sounds were bleating sheep, flatulent goats and gunfire, with the occasional plane going overhead. And the wind.
The 38-acre Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan mountains is the nosebleed kind to farm. But it’s worth it. Rhones thrive here. Chardonnay is exceptional (tasty examples are made by Coastview, De Tierra, Parsonage and Big Basin Vineyards), exuding a hefty, almost gritty minerality and an unrelenting acid core rarely found outside of France or the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Here, Syrah takes on the raucous cured meatiness of French saucisson and the spicy-herbiness of a cassoulet. Look for examples from Coastview, Thacher, Big Basin Vineyards and Savannah Channelle. Truly, this is a special vineyard and owner John Allen is lucky to have it. Those who make wine from it are nearly as lucky to have it as a vineyard source, as those of us who are fortunate enough to drink from its uniquely flavored cup.
Allen and the rest of the Coastview team haven’t been so lucky, however, in getting the long-awaited tasting room open. Initially slated for Carmel, it was later planned for Carmel Valley Village, in the space formerly occupied by Dawn’s Dream—now happily relocated to Carmel. The musical chairs aspect of this tasting room business is nothing short of amusing, although dealing with all the machinations of permitting and remodelling has been anything but funny for Coastview’s Tasting Room Manager, Lori Curtis.
They did finally receive their ABC license and with all the good luck remaining in the waning coffers of 2014, they plan to hold their Official Holiday Open House on December 21st. There will be Christmas music and an assortment of cheeses, along with their nicely aged wines.
Says Curtis, “Our theme is Steampunk Industrial, so we’re ordering some cool hats for people to pose in and take photos.”
A significant obstacle in opening has been the delay of the interior work on the bar, due to the unfortunate accident by Lori’s husband, who fractured his ankle in a mountain biking mishap. Curtis says they have reworked the room to provide a bit more space, something sorely needed on busy days. The expanded venue even includes a garden lounge, with comfy couches.
The wines to be served will include the 2009 and 2011 Chardonnays, 2008 Syrah, 2009 San Andre blend of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot, and the 2009 “Xufu” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. All these wines were made by Ian Brand, maker of the wines that were awarded “People’s Choice” at the Monterey County Fair this past August.
Coastview has utilized the talents of several well-known winemakers over the years, including Brand, who, along with Big Basin Vineyards winemaker, Bradley Brown, both made some of the 2012s and 2013s. Brown made the 2012 Pinot and 2012 Chardonnay, 2013 Pinot, 2013 Chardonnay and three lots of 2013 Syrah. Brand also made some Syrah in 2013.
The winemaker of record for the 2014 vintage is David Coventry, who is making the Coastview wines at Peter Figge’s facility. He began making wine for Coastview in 2002, and made the Bordeaux blend from 2005 through 2008, as well as Syrah from 2007 – 2009.
Says Coventry, “The vineyard is, and always has been, a jewel. It deserves care and respect of the highest order. I started making wine for John (Allen) in 2002, was interrupted for a few years, and I’m glad to have that vineyard back!!”
Each winemaker puts their own stamp, along with Mother Nature’s, on each vintage, so it will be interesting and educational to sample their rather different styles as these wines are released. This is definitely a tasting room to visit if you want to see what a single vineyard delivers year after year, in the same, and in different, hands.
The new Coastview tasting room at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Suite H, is slated to be open from 11 til 5 daily. (831) 298 7521.
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.