Dorothy Gaiter Profile Gavin Chanin

This is a great piece by former wine editor of the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Gaiter, on


Gavin Chanin grew up in the Studio City section of Los Angeles but he lives, so to speak, at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

Consider his audition: Bill Price, the former private equity master and part owner of Kistler and other prestigious wineries, tasted Chanin’s Pinot Noir at an event in San Francisco in 2011 and sent him Pinot grapes from his famous Durell Vineyard in Sonoma. Essentially Price said to Chanin, “Let’s see what you can do with these, Kid!”

“I only knew Durell by reputation, which is well-earned, but I had never worked with Sonoma grapes until then, so it was pretty exciting,” Chanin told me recently. The grapes for Chanin Wine Company’s current offering of four Pinot Noirs come from organic or sustainably farmed parcels in Santa Barbara County, where cool evening temperatures, marine-rich soils, and long growing seasons reign.

Chanin did so well with Price’s grapes that in 2012 the two men became partners in Lutum Wines, a 2,500-case winery in Lompoc that specializes in terroir-driven, single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of the most historic vineyards in Santa Barbara County and highly respected ones in the Sonoma Coast. Lutum, which released its first wine in 2013, is Latin for soil, earth. Price and Chanin are so simpatico that they refer to themselves as The Bards, as in, I guess, they’re making bottled poetry. We did a tasting of a small sample of the wines and found these truly impressive: 2012 and 2013 Lutum Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay, 2012 Chanin Bien Nacido Chardonnay and 2013 Lutum Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir. More on them later.

I used the word “kid.” Chanin, 29, says he’s the youngest winemaker in Santa Barbara, and yet this is his 14th harvest. No slacker here! In 2007, when he was 21 and between his sophomore and junior years at UCLA, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in art, he founded Chanin Wine Company. Those are his bold paintings on its labels. When he was 25, he made Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30 list,” along with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Lady Gaga. Chanin’s wines from Lutum and Chanin have won acclaim from Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter magazines as well as from Jancis Robinson. His 2011 Chanin Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir made the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 100 wines of 2013. Three 2013 Chanin wines made Wine & Spirits’ Year’s Best Pinot Noir issue in April.

“Years ago a wine magazine wrote a big piece on young winemakers and they were all in their early-to-mid 30s and I was 23 at the time selling my first vintage thinking, huh, I need to get out and show more people my wine so they call me next time,” he told me.

“If anything, young age works against me,” he continued, “because people often interpret being young as being inexperienced, so I try to talk more about my experience with 14 harvests than age.”

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