Thursday, October 28, 2010

San Francisco Chronicle Article - 10/24/2010

French-inspired chateau in Carmel Valley vineyards
Sarah Fritsche, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle October 24, 2010 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
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.12 ..Chad Ziemendorf / The Chronicle

The tasting room and grounds of Chateau Julien in Carmel Valley, Calif., are photographed on Monday, September 6, 2010.
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The Tasting Room
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Carmel Valley offers a trove of tucked-away charm. Most tasting rooms in the valley serve as outposts for their respective wineries, located elsewhere in Monterey County. Chateau Julien, however, offers a complete vine-to-wine experience.

The vibe: Cradled by picturesque hillsides, the winery is built in the style of a French chateau. Walking up the cobblestone path toward the entrance, you're struck by the grand elegance. The wood-beamed ceilings of the Great Hall, wrought-iron chandeliers, large fireplace and 18-foot mahogany table that serves as a tasting area all add to the ambience. Handblown stained-glass windows and French doors give an airy feel. The hall also serves as gift shop and awards showcase, displaying the winery's numerous wines and accompanying medals and ribbons.

The team: In 1978, New Jersey natives Bob and Patty Brower moved to Carmel with the goal of establishing a winery that reflected the charm, hospitality and quality of wines they had fallen in love with while traveling in Europe. Four years later, they opened their French-inspired winery. Winemaker Bill Anderson has been with the winery since it opened in 1982.

The wines: Anderson strives for straightforward elegance in his wines. While the winery's focus is on reds, with Merlot as its flagship varietal, they also produce a number of whites. A tasting of six specialty and reserve wines is $5. During our visit, my friend and I started off with a 2009 Gewurztraminer ($22) and a sur-lie 2008 Private Reserve Chardonnay ($32). Moving onto reds, we sampled a 2006 Private Reserve Merlot ($42), followed by the 2006 Black Nova ($78), a Zinfandel-Syrah blend. We also got to try a wine not listed, the 2007 La Conviviance ($90), a Bordeaux-style red blend. We capped off the tasting with a Carmel Cream Sherry ($28).

The experience: We visited the winery on a quiet Tuesday morning. Our host, Fina, who's been with the winery for over 25 years, was warm, friendly and thoroughly knowledgeable about the wines and the winery's history. She even helpfully offered us advice on a shortcut to our next destination.

The extras: An inviting cobblestone courtyard is perfect for taking in the scenery over a glass of wine. Cheese plates are available for purchase, or BYO goodies. Free winery tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. during the weekdays and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. on the weekends; it's a good idea to reserve a spot. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and include the vineyards, winemaking facilities and barrel room. Considering the tours include tasting, it's a steal.

Private tours and tasting packages are available with advance reservations. The winery's facilities can also be rented out for private events.

If you go: 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel; (831) 624-2600 or chateaujulien.com. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Rating: Rating: THREE STARS

This article appeared on page M - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/22/TRUS1FLJAD.DTL#ixzz13hEzi9Od