Chasseur: Quietly Crafting Princely Pinots
Bill Hunter is one of a band of winemakers focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in the West County
of Sonoma around the towns of western Sebastopol, Freestone and Occidental. Hunter developed an early
interest in wine working as a wine steward at the famed Chronicle Restaurant in Pasadena, California, which
was widely known for its extensive wine list. He went on to graduate from the University of California at Davis
and gained his early winemaking experience at Rombauer, Bonny Doon and Chauffe-Eau Cellars. In 1994, he
began to make some wine on the side, eventually starting his own label, Chasseur, the French word for Hunter.
In 2002, he was joined by partner Alex P. Barhtolomaus, the Managing Director of Billington Imports, allowing
Hunter to devote himself full time to Chasseur wines. He now produces 5,000 cases of Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay at his small garagiste winery in Sebastopol.
Hunter is a quiet winemaker who shuns the limelight. I have never seen him pouring at a wine event.
Regardless, his lineup of Pinot Noirs are quite impressive, particularly the single vineyard bottlings which are
all quite distinctive, complex, and widely touted in the wine press. I recently tasted through most of the lineup
of 2007 Chasseur Pinot Noirs. The wines are deeply colored, full-bodied and fruit-driven with reigned-in
tannins and oak. All the wines are unfined and unfiltered. The lineup of 2007 Pinot Noirs are very similar but
with slight but noticeable differences. None of the wines will disappoint, regardless of which one you choose to
2008 Cazar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $18.
Bing cherries on the nose. Medium-weighted dried cherry,
rhubarb and oak flavors. Savory herbs and earth notes add interest.
Smoothly textured with a crisp finish. A pretty good drink that is clean,
tasty, and a steal for the tab. Widely available in the retail market.
2007 Chasseur Holder Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 75 cases, $50. From a 1.5-acre
vineyard in the Green Valley farmed by Bruce Holder and Mary Ann Wheeler. One mile east of the town
of Occidental, the planting includes clones 667 and 115 (2000).
An impressive wine that begins with
lovely aromas of black cherries, spice, dark chocolate and a hint of smoke. Tasty black cherry and
black raspberry essence with a sweet edge, leaving a lush impression in the mouth. Perfectly balanced
with fine tannins and a pleasing tang on the finish. Angelic.
2007 Chasseur Sexton Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 200
cases, $55. From the Cornerstone Vineyard on Sexton Road planted by James
Pratt to clones 113, 114, 115, 777 and 828 in 2000. The vineyard is 500 feet
above the town of Freestone.
Unusual aromatic profile featuring black raspberry
jam, dried mustard, fennel and Chinese Five-spice. Discreetly concentrated fruit
core of berries and perfectly ripe plums that coats the mouth with a velvety
richness. Hard to stop drinking this smooth and sensual wine. Very good (+).
2007 Chasseur Blank Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 275 cases, $60. From the Blank Road
Vineyard owned by Kenneth Goodin and planted and managed by Jim Pratt beginning in 2001. Clones 115
The nose is a bit flat and stinky showing black cherry fruit and oak. Very subdued initially but builds in
richness in the glass. Fruit-driven and one-dimensional and difficult to cozy up to now. Try again in a year.
2007 Chasseur Freestone Station Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 375 cases, $60. Freestone
Station Vineyard is owned by the Cleary family and farmed by the Dutton family. Situated in Freestone.
Clones 115, 777, 23 and Pommard. Low yielding vineyard harvested late in October.
Plenty going on in the
nose with aromas of black raspberries, blackberries, red grapes, rhubarb, spice and complimentary oak. Tasty
dark red berry fruit that is silky and viscous in the mouth with a long, clean finish. This wine gets better and
better in the glass over time. Very good (+).
2007 Chasseur Joyce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 100
cases, $60. From the Joyce Vineyard farmed by Charlie Chenoweth. 3
acres on a ridge south of Freestone planted to clones 115 and 777.
Enticing scents of berries and cherries highlighted by notes of forest floor
and pine. Rich core of juicy dark cherry, berry and plum fruit leaning to
the dark red side. The texture is all silk and satin and the tannins are
supple. Great now, but withholding some of its potential. It should improve with
cellaring because the balance is spot-on.
2007 Chasseur Sylvia’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 100 cases, $60. From a tiny .9-acre
vineyard owned and farmed by the Dutton family. Planted in 1994 on a ridge above the town of Graton in
Goldridge soils. Clone 115.
A ripe style with flavors of ripe plums and berries, raisin, root beer and port. Wellcrafted,
easy to drink, but stewed fruit, even when slight as in this wine, is not my thing. Decent.
2007 Chasseur Umino Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 250
cases, $60. From David Umino’s 11-acre vineyard southwest of Sebastopol on
Blucher Valley Road. Planted to Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 459 in 1997. A
vineyard-designate bottling since the 2006 vintage.
Aromas of dark berries with a
toasted oak and subtle anise edge. Well-defined earth-kissed dark fruits with
complimentary oak flavors. Soft, dry tannins and a finish that sails along
smoothly. Very good.
Chasseur vineyard-designate wines are sold primarily through a mailing list. Appellation Pinot Noirs from the
Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast are also produced and are distributed in the fine wine retail
marketplace. All the above 2007 Chasseur Pinot Noirs and the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir are still
available on the website at www.chasseurwines.com. Total production, including Chardonnay, is 2,700 cases.
The website is quite informative. Chasseur operates under the LLC, Hunter Wine Cellars. 707-829-1941.