Wine Review – Branham 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (no oak or ML)

Is your mantra about white wine  ‘ABC’. (Anything but chardonnay.) Do you enjoy sauvignon blanc, or other white wines with crisp acidity, and bright fruit? If so hunt out the slowly growing category of chardonnays that are made without oak aging or malolactic (ML) fermentation.

There is nothing wrong with a chardonnay that is well made, and seen some oak and ML, but many have been turned off by the overly oaky, buttery chardonnays that have been being cranked out for years – we love to take a good thing to excess in the U.S. Its also a personal palette preference.

I discovered sauvignon blanc years ago, before the New Zealand craze caught on, and as a result of palette fatigue (kinda like wine ADHD) was hunting something else, and was pleased to discover this slowly emerging category of chardonnay in the US. (This is nothing new to Aussies.) I was inspired enough this was one of the two varietals I crushed this year, to also experiment with this style.

The Sonoma County Fair for the first time, amidst some controversy, had a category this year for unoaked Chardonnay, which I hope they repeat.  Like any wine, not all of these unoaked, no ML chardonnays are stellar, and a few poorly made entries seem to have portrayed the category negatively.

I generally try and/or buy any in Sonoma County I find, and have tasted quite a few. Sometime early next year, I am planning to taste through a number in comparison, so if you have suggestions, send them on.downtown wine

One that I discovered this year, and enjoy regularly is from Gary Branham, a local boutique wine maker. Gary shares a tasting room with Kenny and Lynn of Hobo Wines, (I am a big fan of Kenny’s wines.)  Both of their wines are poured and available for purchase in downtown Healdsburg, at Downtown Wine. More often than not, you will be attended to by Aaron – a very knowledgeable wine aficionado. Talk less than I do, and you may learn a few things. Downtown Wine is also part of the Wine Road, and will be taking part in the Winter Wineland next month.

Color: Pale yellow, light straw, good clarity

Aroma:  A wonderful nose – full of  green apple, citrus

In the Mouth: Left on the lees (wine sediment) for 4 months gives this chardonnay nice mouth feel.

07chardbranham

A bounty of fruit in the mouth; pineapple, green apple, grapefruit. Needless to say, a mouth watering finish, that lingers nicely.

Only 325 cases made, get some before its gone, but save a case for me!

Around $22, You can find this wine at the Downtown Tasting room, or Vine Tastings in Windsor, by the glass or bottle. (Unfortunately like most restaurants its served over chilled, masking its nuances. Cup your hands around the glass for a minute.)

Wine Geek Info

  • Harvest: September 30, 2007
  • Average Chemistry at Harvest: 25 Brix 3.20 pH .68 TA
  • Whole Cluster Pressed
  • Fermented in Stainless Steel for 25 days @ 55 degrees F
  • No Malolactic fermentation ~ Left sur lie for 4 months
  • Bottling: January 2007
  • Chemistry at bottling: 14% alcohol 3.20 pH .68 TA
  • Varietal percentage; 100% Chardonnay
  • Vineyards: Foppoli Family Vineyard
  • Production: 325 Cases
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