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11.15.2004

2001 Chiarello Vineyards "Eileen" Cabernet, Napa

Here at Vinography I like to explore a broad range of wines available in California and around the world, and it's particularly interesting to compare some. In the last couple of weeks I introduced you to Jim Neal, a struggling, passionate young winemaker who started his career as a chef in wine country, and has now moved out of the kitchen and into the cellar.

Today, I'd like to bring you a wine from someone similar in spirit but very different in circumstance. While Michael Chiarello may have struggled in his beginnings as a chef, the point at which he decided to enter the wine business was marked less by struggle and more by star power. Chiarello, if you haven't heard of him, is a prominent celebrity chef who opened the much admired restaurant Tra Vigne in the Napa valley, and who manages to author cookbooks and star in TV shows in his spare time.

Another of his hobbies is gardening, and it was during some landscaping on a newly bought piece of property that he discovered the old gnarled stumps of Zinfandel vines literally in his back yard. Nursing these 90 year old vines back to health, Michael began yet another career as a winery owner of Chiarello Family Vineyards. With the help of the young, talented winemaker Thomas Brown (formerly of Turley Wine Cellars, now of Outpost, among others) Michael began to produce small bottlings of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, and when I say small, I mean small -- some of them don't break the 100 case mark.

Currently his offerings also include this Cabernet which comes from a single estate vineyard in St. Helena. This wine spent 20 months in 100% new French oak and 267 cases were produced. The combination of Michael's orientation towards food friendly wines, and Thomas' style of rich but not overbearing wines has resulted in a wine that despite not having humble beginnings, has all the quality and spirit you'd expect from a small family producer.

Tasting Notes:
Dark purple in the glass this wine has a great nose of cherry, blackberry, and blackcurrant fruit aromas. On the palate it is smooth and silky, with predominantly cherry fruit flavors, mellow tannins, and a hint of incense and spicebox that creeps in as the wine finishes.

Food Pairing:
The bold fruit of this wine will sumptuously accent flavors that are more earthy. Try pouring it with this wild mushroom crostini.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $45

There is a little more wine available at the vineyard. You can purchase directly from their Web site.

Comments (20)

enoch choi wrote:
11.15.04 at 10:17 PM

have you seen how hitching post is prominently part of "sideways" the movie? One of my favs from Fam Winemakers was HP's Generation Red, a cab franc blend.

01.03.05 at 10:09 AM

Thanks for the comments on our wines and personal history. I want to assure you and your readers that this is not a TV Chef driven brand...I am very passionate about stewarding the land in a fashion that brings out the best in both flavor and respect to the earth. I will be farming this 20 acres long after my last show is aired on TV. If you notice the label you will see that my name is way down the bottle as I do not want to confuse one with the other. I farm this (organically) 75% myself with a little help from a management company. Thomas Brown is a gentle giant of a winemaker that I am proud to be associated with. We hope you can taste all the hard work, dedictation and love in each bottle.

Thank you for your encouragement and agree with you on Jim Neal...great guy and great wines.

M. Chiarello

Alder wrote:
01.03.05 at 10:49 AM

Michael,

Thanks for your comments and the additional information, especially that you farm organically. It's great to see more people doing that. Keep up the good work and I look forward to tasting your future efforts!

Andrea Williams wrote:
01.04.05 at 12:48 PM

We tried the Eileen cab over Christmas and absolutely loved it! We ordered half a case. Great job Michael!

M. Chiarello wrote:
01.04.05 at 7:53 PM

Andrea

Thanks for the kind word. The Eileen in the wine is my lovely wife...the vineyard is a Grace Family Vineyard clone Cabernet that is planted in a rock pile section of our vineyard. Barely watered and kept to just over 3 tons per acre. A Cab made for couples who are not looking for a pitch fork to get the tannins out of the way. Thomas has done a wonderful job on intergrating them in a lucious way. Thrilled you enjoy it.

M. Chiarello

Jackie wrote:
02.18.05 at 8:36 PM

I LOVE your show on FoodNetwork; I really enjoy seeing you cook - and eat - with your friends. However, I've only seen your wife, Eileen, on 2 episodes: briefly on a Thansgiving episode, and also on a Valentine's episode last year. Please tell me you are still together and she just doesn't like to appear on your television specials???

Michael wrote:
02.21.05 at 5:52 PM

We are still together and wonderfully happy. We founded NapaStyle together so she is usually holding down the fort while I am taping....more of her in new episodes for sure.

Keep Cooking

M. Chiarello

Francine wrote:
03.18.05 at 2:52 PM

Is Michael Chiarello remarried? I remember watching one of his PBS shows a few years ago. He was cooking with one of his daughters. Today I was watching his show on the food network- the wedding anniversary one. He said he was celebrating his one year anniversary. How can that be with three daughters?

Mo wrote:
03.24.05 at 5:05 PM

I have been watching Napa Style for about a year now and I am so totally in love with the style and ambiance of Michael. I am planning a trip to Napa next week and the only regret is that it isn't a week later so that I could attend the case party. Michael's show makes me happy. I have come from three years of extreme stress and family losses. Michael gives me balance. I come home from a very stressful day on Wall Street, click on TiVo and watch Michael's style and go Potso with him. He brings peace and calm to my life. My dream would be meet him in person. I love his love of life and taking the time to stop and smell the roses and fragences of the wines. His love of family and ways of continuing their traditions and memories is so touching and insightful. I look forward to every second I spend in Napa and only hope to someday to meet him.

Maureen O'Connor

05.31.05 at 10:23 PM

Maureen

Thanks for you very touching comments. I hope that you life is taking shape again and am deeply sorry for your loss.

Very happy that we can bring you some daily joy.

Michael

Rachel wrote:
07.28.05 at 7:49 AM

Love your show! Sorry I missed you in Tampa this week. Your wife Eileen looks an awful lot like a girlfriend I went to high school
with. Was she Eileen Gordon - from Falls Church VA

Michael wrote:
07.31.05 at 2:22 PM

Rachel

She is one in the same. Found her way west and the rest is history.

Michael

Brent wrote:
08.01.05 at 9:08 AM

I have recently come to enjoy your show on the Food Network. Your style and attitude are very nice and relaxing. You are also a very inspiring person, running your own businesses and succeeding and still being a approachable person. Please keep up the great work and the great products at Napastyle.
Brent

CAROLYN wrote:
09.20.05 at 1:12 PM

HI, FRANCINE POSTED A MESSAGE THAT WAS NOT ANSWERED. I WAS ALSO WONDERING IF MICHAEL IS REMARRIED. I ALSO SAW HIS DAUGHTERS AND THEN SAW THE SHOW WHERE HE WAS CELEBRATING HIS FIRST ANNIVERSARY. COULD YOU PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION AND ALSO WHO WAS THE FIRST MRS. CHIARELLO AND HOW LONG WERE THEY MARRIED? THANKS, CAROLYN

Alder wrote:
09.22.05 at 2:47 PM

Carolyn and any other Michael Chiarello fans who are reading this:

I want to make it clear that Michael Chiarello has no affiliation with this web site. The fact that he has responded to a couple of questions does not mean that he has any obligation to answer any more, nor should anyone expect him to. He is a reader of Vinography just like you are. I think it's fascinating that this wine review has somehow become a mini-gateway between Michael and his fans, and I am content to let it remain so, but only as long as Michael is willing and interested to post comments here. He doesn't have to respond to Francince or anyone else if he doesn't want to, especially considering these questions are getting awfully personal.

Also, please refrain from using ALL CAPS when posting comments.

Thank you.

Carol wrote:
11.25.05 at 9:56 AM

I wanted to post a comment about how brilliant Michael Chiarello is. I moved to the west coast 7 years ago, and since I sometimes miss my Brooklyn roots, watching Michael bring Napastyle to life and have his genius on television, particularly around the holidays. I want to thank him for sharing his gifts and talents with us awkward chefs that receive a bit of inspiration from folks likes him.

rochella wrote:
01.02.06 at 4:54 PM

HAPPY SIGH. Recently smitten by the congeniality and utter old world/new age CA-ness of this Napa Valley artisan, I wandered the web iso of a little more info and encountered this page. Not the blogging type, I'll transcend my trend to steer clear of fan-tasia for I simply MUST say while pining away here, in the throes of abject HOMESICKNESS having left the nativity (39 years!) of my beloved Mendocino/Sonoma County back in '01 for a stint in the...cough choke stutter ARTICHOKELESS, Dungeonessless, Albacoreless Midwest...Michael's show is a Godsend, warming the cockles of my heart and keeping, indeed, the home fires burning while I plot my return westward. Salut, Michael and family! From the grandaughter of a long passed, old-school Redwood Empire grower, thank you for opening the windows of your bountiful life and sharing your passions with those of us who for whatever reason may only vicariously experience the incredible joy and bounty that IS, indeed, the mythically magical cornucopia of Northern Ca. Ah, bittersweet, sentimental tuggings @ the ol' heartstrings. Each viewing takes me home again. Happy New Year!

Stephanie wrote:
01.06.06 at 1:16 PM

Michael- Love your show you have inspired me in soo many ways to get into the food business, thank you soo very much.

Best, Stephanie Redondo Beach, CA

Kathy wrote:
03.01.06 at 5:37 PM

Michael, I've been watching your food network for a few months now. Even though I'm a full-blooded Italian from Weed, California and I cook Italian food, I've learned alot from you. I love watching your show and your parties. I wish that I could go to your wine tasting in April. Unfortunately I won't be in Napa until this summer or next. My Dad's parents were from Calabria and my mom's were from Venice. It's interesting watching you cook because it reminds me alot of when I'd eat at my nonna's and nonno's house. Thank you. You are great and it really relaxes me when I'm watching you on my lunch break.

Kathy

Isabelle M. Richards wrote:
10.21.07 at 6:02 PM

I have read the lovely posts on Michael Chiarello, especially those from people like myself, who are Americans descended from Italian immigrants. Michael has brought us home to our heritage and I thank him for that gift. I had the sheer pleasure of meeting him a number of years ago at his then restaurant Tra Vigne. Michael was a rising star at that time. I had just had lunch and requested a tour of the kitchens at Tra Vigne. After the tour, I spotted Michael across the courtyard and called out to him. He turned and waited for me to reach him. I chatted with him about Napa and Tra Vigne and his television appearances. Despite my foolish intrusion into his privacy, Michael was gracious, warm and welcoming. I thank him for that and continue to enjoy watching him on "Easy Entertaining" and how it revives wonderful memories of growing up Italian-American.

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