Q&A With Challen Cates, Challen Winery

Challen Cates is a resident of Hancock Park, and Challen Winery is a small Santa Barbara County producer of premium single vineyard designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
Challen wines are offered in many great restaurants across Los Angeles. Some of my favorite spots include Musso and Frank, Providence, Emilia, R&D Kitchen, Trattoria Amici and Vernetti and also local shops like Bristol Farms, K&L and Larchmont Wine and Cheese. For a full list visit challenwinery. They offer free ground shipping on every order of 3 bottles or more.
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1) You've had a productive acting career with many roles in TV and film; how did you decide to enter the wine business?
My father was a winemaker and started a winery in the Central Coast in 1997. Spending time with him at his winery was my escape from Hollywood. My father lost his winery and a show I was working on ended at the same time. I found myself in a rut after losing two things that I loved at the same time. With a bit of encouragement from friends and family, I pulled my act together and started my own winery. We started very small, with 250 cases and one vineyard in 2012. We’ve grown to 1,500 cases, sourcing from 7 of the best vineyards in California.

2) Challen Winery primarily focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. How did you settle on those varietals? And tell us about them!
Pinot Noir was my father’s passion, a delicate grape that is often referred to as the “heartbreak grape” because it is fragile and difficult to work with, but produces some of the most elegant, complex and nuanced of wines. I started with Pinot Noir and then added Chardonnay in 2015 to represent the two main Burgundy varietals. We produce 7 single vineyard Pinot Noirs and 3 Chardonnays as well as AVA blended Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs. Last year we began creating a custom Syrah for Musso and Frank Restaurant for their 100th anniversary. It is an honor to be working with such an iconic Hollywood location.
3) With the holiday season upon, could you give us your favorite wine pairings for our upcoming celebrations?
Wine is inherently festive to begin so you really can’t go wrong. That said, I have been doing tasting notes on our new wines and while tasting our 2018 Pinot Noir Dierberg Vineyard, I was transported back home via the aromatics of baking spices, stone fruits and bramble berries. Pinot pairs so beautifully with traditional holidays foods like turkey, lamb, salmon and risotto. I also recommend our 2018 Chardonnay Zotovich Vineyard, which has enough structure to pair with an elaborate cheese and charcuterie plate. Oh, I do love a lively glass of Chardonnay to toast the New Year, and this new year more than ever! 
We always have a few holidays offerings so please visit our website. In addition, we love putting together library wines (older vintage) as special gifts. 
4) You're a busy, working mom with a family in Hancock Park, and the winery is located in Santa Maria. How often do you get a chance to make it up there and how hands-on do you like to be in the process?
During harvest, I go to the winery almost every day. Colton and Jasper love going with me to help in the winery. They have become expert grape sorters which is fantastic since we hand-sort all of our grapes. Last year we processed 21 tons of fruit, so I welcome as many hands on deck as I can get. If I wake up at 5am and get on the road by 5:30, I miss all of the traffic on the 101. It’s a beautiful drive and it always takes my breath away when I see the coastline in Santa Barbara County and the rolling hills dotted with oak trees in the Santa Ynez Valley.
5) Rumor has it that during the pandemic you're offering wine delivery to locals....is this true?!
Yes it’s true. I am using CDC guidelines to pack up and deliver wine in the area, free of charge. Just know that I am smiling under my mask!
6) What do you and your family love about living in Hancock Park?
Hancock Park is so beautiful and such a hidden gem in this sprawling metropolis. We love the beauty and the sense of community here. During normal times, I love that our kids can walk down the street to visit with friends and ride their bikes to Larchmont. I love walking the streets of Hancock Park to admire the gorgeous and varied architecture.
Challenwinery [email protected] 323-879-8081

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