In 1994 Bill Hunter made his first vintage of Chasseur (French for ‘hunter’) with just two barrels of Chardonnay and a single barrel of Pinot Noir. By then he already had plenty of experience under his belt: he graduated from U.C. Davis for Enology followed by stints at Bonny Doon, Rombauer and Chauffe-Eau Cellars. His goal however, was always to have his own winery where he could make tiny lots of exceptionally high quality wines.
Since that first vintage he has relentlessly pursued this goal, in some years sourcing fruit from over ten different vineyards and producing more than a dozen different bottlings. Despite the number of offerings from Chasseur, it is still a small winery, producing only 2700 cases in total, ranging from 75-150 cases of each wine. He ferments whole clusters in one ton fermenters and generally bottles without fining or filtering the wines. He ages them in about 50% new French oak for 10-17 months depending on the cuvée. He also has a second label called Cazar (Spanish for ‘To Hunt’) which provides quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at easily affordable prices.
Robert Parker calls Bill “a bigger-than-life guy… producing hand-crafted, small lot wines in a French style.” While his wines are restrained and elegant in a Burgundian style, Bill is dedicated to uncovering the terroir of the “true” Sonoma Coast, an area known more and more for producing some of California’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.
“Bill Hunter is a bigger-than-life guy working out of a low-tech warehouse producing hand-crafted, small lot wines in a French style. Production has leveled off between 2,500 and 2,800 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Virtually all of his vineyards are on the western fringes of the Russian River Valley where it segues into the Sonoma Coast appellation. Hunter calls it the West County triangle area, between Sebastopol, Freestone, and Occidental. Hunter’s winemaking philosophy demands the gentlest handling possible, with the wines moved by either Argon gas (the non-bruising neutral gas) or gravity, fermented in tiny lots, and bottled in most cases without any fining or filtration. Chasseur is definitely a reference point for consumers looking for the highest quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from northern California. These are all very impressive wines that merit serious attention. Moreover, their prices are reasonable for the quality level. Chasseur’s Pinot Noirs are fermented in tiny, one-ton fermenters with some whole clusters (stems) used” –Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, Feb. 2010.
Click here to download a detailed map of the vineyards.
The property for this vineyard is owned by Tif and Judy Joyce and farmed by Charlie Chenoweth. The three acres are located on a ridge above and just south of Freestone on Barnett Valley Road. The vineyard is planted to both Dijon clones 115 and 777. The vineyard is very late ripening and the ’04 vintage, the first, is as dark and concentrated as a Syrah but with incredible Pinot flavors. This is truly one to watch. In barrel the notes of this wine are black plum, cherry and allspice characteristics.
Review Score: 93