Standing 1,500 feet above sea level in Monterey County’s Gabilan Mountains, one can actually see the terroir of Michaud Vineyard. The rocky crags and peaks of nearby Pinnacles National Monument loom over the almost moonscape-like panorama. This is the heart of the Chalone appellation, where one can literally detect the district’s ancient decomposed granite and limestone soils in the wine.
Michael Michaud knows this historic, unique appellation perhaps better than anyone. He began his thirty-year winemaking career at Chalone Vineyard, where he crafted acclaimed, complex Burgundian-style wines. Michael fell in love with the mineral structure and elegance the arid climate and lean soils provided the wines—he acquired land with his wife Carol and began to gradually plant his own vines.
Occasional vineyard tours by appointment
After 19 vintages with the Chalone brand, he left in 1998 to devote full attention to his own vineyard, just down the dusty road. And “full attention” is no exaggeration. From sunrise to sunset, Michael works as farmer, winemaker, and chief evangelist for Michaud Vineyard.
“The goal? To make wines that directly reflect the truly one-of-a-kind nature of this place,” Michael says. Toward that end, he does the winemaking and the farming himself with the help of Associate Winegrower Justin Kahler. “ I purposely keep production small, because I like getting my hands dirty and having complete quality control, from the dirt to the bottle. This is my passion,” Michael says.
With only 29 planted acres and nine different clones of Pinot Noir alone, Michael is able to micromanage the various blocks and lots at harvest time, achieving limited-release, award-winning Michaud wines known for their elegance, balance, and ageworthiness.
Since the winery is located in such a remote area, it is rarely able to receive guests. Happily, visitors to downtown Paso Robles and the Meritage Wine Tasting Lounge there can sample the wonderful, expressive Michaud Vineyard releases. There, they can taste for themselves Michael’s three decades of experience in the Chalone appellation.