For Carmenet Vineyard, three may be better than one. The Chalone Wine Group has reorganized its Sonoma Valley-based winery into three distinct labels: Carmenet, Moon Mountain Vineyard and Dynamite. Each emphasizes different price ranges or regional specialties.
One of the goals of the split, winery officials admit, was to end consumer confusion. It wasn't unusual, for example, for the original Carmenet label to feature three or four different Cabernet Sauvignons from one vintage, and consumers were having trouble understanding the distinctions between the wines.
The original Carmenet winery, built in the early 1980s high on the Sonoma side of Mount Veeder, is now known as Moon Mountain Vineyard. Its flagship wine is the Moon Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is produced from estate grapes. The 1999 vintage was just released, and it is the first wine that comes from the vines planted after a 1996 wildfire destroyed 75 percent of the vineyard. About 6,400 cases of the '99 Cabernet were made; it sells for $65 a bottle.
The Carmenet label will continue, although production has been moved to Chalone's Vintage Lane winery near Glen Ellen. That label will focus on the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and a single-vineyard Zinfandel from Evangelho Vineyard in Contra Costa County, plus modest amounts of Sonoma County appellation Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Total case production is just under 10,000 cases, and the wines are priced from $18 to $40.
The third label, Dynamite Vineyards, is the high-volume brand, of which 88,000 cases a year are produced at the Vintage Lane winery. This brand focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc harvested from vineyards throughout California's North Coast, particularly the Red Hills region of Lake County. The wines are priced in the $18 to $25 range.
"Dynamite started off as being the part of the estate vineyard that didn't go into the Moon Mountain Reserve," said winemaker Randall Watkins. "And now Dynamite has grown into its own brand."
Chalone Wine Group is a publicly held company that includes California brands such as Acacia, Chalone, Echelon, Edna Valley, Jade Mountain and the new Provenance Vineyards, as well as Washington's Canoe Ridge and Sagelands.
Check our recent ratings of Carmenet wines.
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