2011 Chad Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve
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Carneros Vineyard & 3.98 out of 5 stars! A Step Behind the #1 Sommelier in America

These days, we're largely in the driver's seat, and unlike the early years of WineAccess, our suppliers tend to handle us with kid gloves. It's been a long time since someone's given us the cold shoulder, let alone a guy with whom we thought we've forged such a solid partnership. But short harvests make for strange bedfellows, none stranger than today's.

In 2009, in the throes of the Great Recession, a young winemaker hatched an idea at a Napa Valley BBQ. The brand that would soon be launched carried only his first name. The label was simple and to the point. "Chad" took off like wildfire.

For 18 months, we were showered with stunning under-$20 Pinot Noirs, each drawn from prized vineyard sources, most the EXACT same wine as one could find on local retail shelves under a different label at twice the price. We rode that horse until a series of short-crop harvests sucked any semblance of distress out of the Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Russian River Pinot Noir markets. "Chad" Pinot Noir production, at one time as much as 1,000 cases per bottling, would be whittled down to less than 500. Then, a guy named Michael Madrigale discovered the 2010 Chad Pinot Noir "Reserve" and suddenly -- just like that -- all bets were off.

Who's Madrigale? The recently named #1 Sommelier in America by Wine Enthusiast magazine rules the roost on Boulud Corner at 64th and Broadway, overseeing the wine programs at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud. Madrigale has quite a Twitter following. If you want to be included, give us a holler and we'll get you plugged in. Each week, the somm to the stars tweets a nightly menu of Big Bottles -- largely old Burgundies, Loire Valley oddities, Hermitage and Cote Rotie -- luring investment bankers by the drove to Daniel's hotspots.

But as to Michael Madrigale's go-to red wine by the glass -- for the past EIGHT months! -- that bottle wouldn't be drawn from the calcareous soils of Meursault or Sancerre, but from what many believe to be the most precious Pinot Noir vineyard in Carneros. "Chad" has taken the blue chip clientele of Bar Boulud by storm.

The 2010 Chad Pinot Noir "Reserve" would be the highest-rated ever, earning a whopping 54 5-star and 101 4-star reviews. With its deep ruby color, luscious aromas of raspberries and black cherry preserves, the attack was plush and vibrant, the finish fresh and vibrant, highlighting the salts, cutting the fats of Daniel's trademark canard.

This just-bottled 2011 "Reserve" captures all the juicy plushness of the 2010, then slightly pushes the needle on the backbone, ratcheting up vibrancy, lengthening the back palate with mouth-watering persistence. AGAIN drawn from what many believe to be the finest patch in the AVA (and again offered under a different label at twice the price), one more time we told our old 'friend,' we'd take all he'd give us. We shouldn't have held our breath.

Is this getting old? You bet. 500 cases produced. After the #1 Sommelier in America, we're a distant second. Here's your choice. Once in Manhattan, grab the A-Train. Get off at Columbus Circle. Then make your way to 64th and Broadway. Start with a glass of white from one of Madrigale's Big Bottles. Then switch to Chad Pinot Noir Reserve with Daniel's duck.

Tasting Notes

2011 Chad Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve
"Brilliant ruby. Luscious aromas of black cherry and raspberry, a lacing of sweet spice. Rich and juicy on the attack, unusually weighty though still marvelously high-toned and vibrant, all the textbook acidity that is common to all the Pinots of this topnotch site. Drink now for its youthful opulence or age for 4-6 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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