Posts Tagged ‘chardonnay’
It’s a bit ironic as a blogger and now small vintner, well known for love of Rhône wines, that I regularly come to the defense of Chardonnay.
Several years ago for #ChardonnayDay, when others scoffed at such a concept, I held a tasting for 10 producers of varied styles that people raved about later. The tasting accomplished my goal of demonstrating that Chardonnay is perhaps the most widely varied varietal in profile of any I know, based on where its from, and wine making techniques.
Stop Thinking of California Chardonnay As THE Representative Of The Varietal
The biggest mistake consumers make is when they write off Chardonnay because of the classic California oaky butter ball/bomb (think Rombauer.)
The style has the illusion of defining Chardonnay because many of the large brands produce these styles by the millions of cases.
Let’s be clear, these wines are often vinified (aka manipulated) to achieve this flavor and texture, including extra Malic acid added to convert to Lactic acid, for the big butter texture. Lower end wines have oak chips added, higher priced ones get over oaked in new French barrels.
However, there are a number of small vintners who make excellent chardonnay not in a classic non California style. This, however, is not my focus today. I encourage you to taste from producers like, Inman Family Wines, Ryme, Donelan, to name only a few.
I generally encourage domestic wines, and supporting local vintners, where possible, as many high quality small Vintners are often missed.
However to win over the jaded Chardonnay pundit, I often find it necessary to make a radical palate shift, and taste a consumer through the Chardonnay’s from Burgundy – and when I want to make the most impact, if I think their palate will appreciate, I go right to the north of Burgundy – for Chablis.
Jug Wine Names From Decades Past – No Connection
Unfortunately wine consumers sometimes hear ‘Chablis’ and “White Burgundy’ and unfortunately may conjure up the images of old Ernest & Julio Gallo or Carlo Rossi white jug wines. It’s a tragedy the names of generations of stunning French white wines were connected with these jug wines, as they bear no resemblance.
The fact that Carlo Rossi STILL sells a 4.0 Liter jug wine called ‘Chablis’ is support for why we globally trademark and protect wine regions. This is not ‘Chablis’ just as Barefoot Bubbly is not ‘champagne’ – Grandfathering be damned in the latter case.
What Defines & Distinguishes Chablis
Chablis is sometimes referred to as the ‘purest’ form of Chardonnay, because the vinification techniques are the least impacting on flavor profile.
Most of Chablis is fermented in stainless steel or neutral oak barrel, with aging in stainless, or a mix of used oak barrels, with minimal new. Chablis is the Northern most region in Burgundy, thus cooler, so the wines are generally quite high in acid and bright. Most Chablis, that I have tasted anyway, generally go through Malolactic fementation, which helps give another layer of complexity to these bright wines.
However, wine making alone can not account for Chablis being so different than other Chardonnay from Burgundy.
The soils of Chablis are known as Kimmeridge clay which is a composition of limestone, clay and tiny fossilized oyster shells. All of Chablis’ Grand Cru vineyards and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on primarily Kimmeridgean soil which imparts a distinctively mineral, flinty note to the wines.
You may scoff at concept of ‘terroir’, but the essence of seashells, salinity, and minerality are captured perfectly in the aroma and flavor profile of these delightful wines.
How Could You NOT Love These Wines
For the wine aficionado, the world of Chablis offers much. If your palate favors acid driven wines, mineral laden whites, there is much to love in Chablis, especially in the offers from the Premier and Grand Crus. White wines that have steely, mineral, saline notes, that scream for food, but are impeccably enjoyable solo. Great Chablis exists at all price points, with good quality as low as $20, but there is a difference when you pay for Premier & Grand Cru that can not be denied.
Don’t be a afraid to splurge for an older bottle on a fine wine list. Acid, more than tannin, is what preserves a wine and allows it to age, and indeed many Chablis benefit from a few years in bottle before releasing.
Chablis Media Tour
Last month I was invited to a small media tasting and lunch, hosted by the Chablis Wine Board and Pure Chablis. Winemaker & President Jean Francois Bordet, led the tasting personally. I have always been a fan of Chablis, but this tasting was the ‘ah ha!’ epiphany moment that made me wake up. Why am I not drinking more of these wines?!
I am now so smitten with Chablis that in ten days I am spending two days there touring, prior heading to my beloved Northern Rhone, and in fact at the expense of some Rhone tasting appointments. Those who follow my passion, know what a statement that is.
Look for an article series in the New Year as I tour vineyards, cellars, talk with Vintners, as well as updates on our Facebook page.
Tasting Notes: Chablis You Can Purchase In the US
- An incredible value for Chablis, at $20. A gorgeous yellow with a slight greenish hue. Nose of saline, green apple, pear. In the mouth its bright, fresh with classic flinty minerality, citrus, and a lingering finish. 92 Points.
2009 La Chablisienne Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet
- Light yellow in color. Rich nose of saline, chalk, green melon. In the mouth its bright, well balanced, that lingers pleasantly on the finish. A good value for a Premier Cru, from 25 year old vines, aged in both stainless tanks and barrel. ~$30. 92 Points.
2009 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Vaulorent
- An outstanding Chablis from hand picked fruit, gravity fed flow, natural yeast & ML fermentation. Light yellow color with a green tinge. Nose of wet stone, lemon. Very bright in the mouth with great flinty minerality, tart green apple, lemon. A young wine that will improve in bottle. ~$45. 93 Points.
2008 Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Valmur
- Richer in style than other Chablis. Harvested from 50 year old vines, 50% stainless, 50% barrel: 10% New, 90% 1-3 year barrels, eight months. Light to medium yellow color. Nose of wet stone, lemon zest , kiwi. Rich in the mouth, tropical fruit, long finish. Use of oak detectable but not overwhelming. ~$50. 90 Points.
2008 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos Domaine de Vaudon
- A stunning Grand Cru Chablis from 37 year old vines, farmed Biodynamically since 2000. Medium yellow color. Expressive nose of lemon zest, wet stone, citrus. Complex & elegant on the palate; expressive pure fruit, saline, with a long finish. Still a baby, with many years ahead to develop. ~$55. 93 Points
From K&L Wine in San Francisco
2011 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux
- This is a great value at $20, The 2011 Champs Royaux is equal parts estate and purchased fruit, mostly from left bank sites. The nose is of crushed seashells, lime, grapefruit. The palate is clean, bright citrus on front, the mid palate has excellent wet stone minerality, the finish is long, with saline and wet rock notes. 90 Points.
2010 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume
- Nose is an opulent mix of white grapefruit, lime pith,, with an undertone of saline. In the mouth, its bright, tart, white peach, lime. The mid palate is pleasant, astringent with minerality, a long drying finish, with a hint of bitterness. Perhaps a bit young, and would benefit from another year in cellar to show at its best. $40. 91 Points.
2010 Domaine de L’Églantière (Jean Durup) Chablis
- A good value Chablis at $16. Fermented and aged in a mix of concrete and stainless. Pale light yellow color. A nose that gives it away as Chablis immediately with notes of seashells, wet rock, and grapefruit. In the mouth its an easy drinking wine – bright citrus, refreshing acid, nice mineral notes, with a clean, lingering finish. An excellent everyday drinking wine that is true to Chablis. 89 Points.
From Kermit Lynch Berkeley Store
2010 Domaine Costal Chablis Les Truffières
- A Kermit Lynch collaboration wine with Domaine Costal. Fermented
and aged 10 months in stainless steel, followed by 3 months in demi-muid barrels (600-Liter.)
A solid Chablis for $25. Yellow straw color. The nose is a classic Chablis – white grapefruit peel, tangerine, wet stone, lime zest. In the mouth it’s slightly lusher, more viscous, than expected, but pleasing, hardly over ripe. The front palate is orange & citrus, the mid palate has nice weight, with minerality and saline, the finish is tart citrus, medium length. 91 Points
2011 Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume
- A mid priced Chablis from Domaine Savary, from a small .75 hectare vineyard, 30 year old vines. Fermented and aged in stainless, aged on the lees. Yellow straw color. A little less detectably ‘Chablis’ on the nose, notes of green apple and white pear. In the mouth its a bit more steely on the mid palate and finish. Slightly rounder front and mid palate with red apple and lime, a modest finish of tangerine. $25. 88 Points.
We’ve got another big barrel tasting weekend ahead of us. I’ll be able to participate this time and I’m really looking forward to it.
If you haven’t decided which wineries you’ll go to yet, here are a couple of theme-based itineraries.
noma Advocate Tour
Antonio Galloni recently published his Sonoma Report for Wine Advocate. He focused heavily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from producers that don’t happen to be part of the Wine Road Barrel Tasting, such as Paul Hobbs, Kistler and Hirsch. However, six wineries awarded 90+ points are pouring.
Of course, Galloni rated bottled wine. Get a leg up on him by evaluating barrel samples from these wineries yourself. (And don’t forget to give their neighbors a little love too.)
- Freestone in Occidental
- Siduri in Santa Rosa
- Red Car in Sebastopol
- La Crema in Windsor
- Kendall-Jackson in downtown Healdsburg (that’s where they are pouring high-end Cabernet)
- Stonestreet in Alexander Valley
limos or buses. (Every winery not
allowing groups is identified on the Wine Road’s list of participating wineries.)
- Bella Vineyards in Healdsburg
- Claypool Cellars in Sebastopol
- Freestone in Occidental
- Fritz in Cloverdale
- Joseph Swan in Forestville
- La Crema in Windsor
- Red Car in Sebastopol
- Sausal in Alexander Valley
- Stonestreet in Alexander Valley
- Vinoteca (6 wineries in one location) in Santa Rosa
Gregory Graham Winemaker Dinner at the Tallman Hotel — Upper Lake: Saturday, March 10, 6:30pm – 11:00pm
Owner and Winemaker Greg Graham and Marianne Graham will be there to introduce the wines and pairings.
McFadden’s Second Saturday — Hopland: Saturday March 10, 10:00am – 5:00pm
Enjoy 100% organically grown grape wines paired with a delicious food treat.
Calistoga Spring Jazz Festival — downtown Calistoga: Saturday, March 10, noon – 6:00pm
Live jazz music, wine and food right downtown in Calistoga.
Merryvale Pinot & Pizza Barrel Tasting — St. Helena: Saturday, March 10, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
An afternoon of wine, food and entertainment featuring current releases, library wines and Tra Vigne pizza.
Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: Friday, March 9, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Bill Vestal plays Americana music.
A Taste of West Sonoma County at Dutton-Goldfield Winery — Sebastopol: Saturday & Sunday, March 10 – 11, 10:am – 4:30pm
A rare tasting of their single-vineyard wines from the Green Valley of Russian River Valley appellation.
34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting — Northern Sonoma: Saturday & Sunday, March 10 – 11, 11:00am – 4:00pm
Your chance to sample wines from the barrel, talk to winemakers and explore the beautiful Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.
Clash of the Sommeliers at Farmhouse Restaurant — Forestville: Monday, March 12, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Three sommeliers pairing wines side-by-side for a four course, seasonal menu.
Songwriters In Sonoma at Meadowcroft Wines — Sonoma: Thursday, March 15, 7:00pm – 9:15pm
Dustin Heald, Rich Little and Fred McCarty
This article is by Fred Swan of NorCalWine.com for SimpleHedonisms.com. Copyright 2012 Fred Swan.
Guest Post by Fred Swan
This weekend’s events look a little sparse on the surface. But one little line item portends barrels of adventure. Hundreds of barrels. Full of wine. canadian viagra
tle=”The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma” href=”http://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel_tasting/3#tabs-5″ target=”_blank”>The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma.
There have already been excellent articles on this site about the barrel tasting. I don’t want to repeat what has been said. But, the list of more than 120+ wineries makes it hard to know where to start. So, I’ll offer a couple of itineraries for you to consider:
(Editorial note by William, for those of you who listened to me on KRSO tonight and are looking for the Tips & Ticket Contest, see Monday’s Post Here: Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!) )
Route 1: Get it While You Can — Wineries Open This Weekend Only
Saturday, focus on wineries west of Hwy 101. I might start at Moshin. Their Sauvignon Blanc will ease you into tasting. Follow it up with vineyard-designate Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Next, head up Westside Road to De La Montanya. They have five different wines for you to sample, starting with Pinot Noir and closing with a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert wine will lead nicely into lunch. You did pack a lunch, right?
Head north on Westside Drive as it turns into West Dry Creek. Pull in at Quivira. Eat your lunch near their biodynamic gardens. Then enjoy their Mourvedre and Petite Sirah.
From Quivra continue on to A. Rafanelli Winery which will be pouring 2010 Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines are always very good. And they age well.
On the second day do an eastern route. Rodney Strong will have a tasty assortment. Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Dry Creek Zinfandel.
From there, go to Stryker Sonoma. See how the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate differs from the Dry Creek wines you tried on Saturday. The’ll also pour Merlot.
Stay on the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon path by going to Trentadue. They’ll let you try their reserve, the La Storia Cabernet Sauvignon. The La Storia Zinfandel and La Storia Cuvee 32 blend will also be available.
For a taste of a completely different Cabernet Sauvignon AVA, head back across Hwy 101 to Ridge Vineyards. They’ve got a barrel of 2011 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Ridge is open the 2nd weekend too, but why wait?)
Route 2: Que Syrah — There’s more to Sonoma than Chard, Zin, Pinot and Cab
Formulate an itinerary from among these excellent Syrah producers:
Joseph Swan (Forestville) will be pouring not one but three vineyard-designate Syrah. Give them a try and see how the terroir of the different vineyards shows through in the wines. The winery will also have Zin, Tannat and more.
Vintoteca in Santa Rosa will be featuring six different wineries. Among the wines will be Olson Ogden’s Dry Creek Syrah. Before you dive into that though, try the Pinot Noirs from Bjornstadt and Baker Lane.
Krutz Family Cellars (Santa Rosa) Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stagecoach Vineyards of Napa Valley was one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines for 2011. They’re opening a barrel of Syrah from that same vineyard, which excels with that variety.
Lauterbach Cellars (Windsor) has acclaimed Syrah fruit, but makes wine in tiny quantities. This is your chance to try some. They’ll have the 2009 Syrah, but will start you off with Pinot Noir and their Syrah Rosé.
Red Car (Sebastopol) is un-bunging their Estate Syrah. But first, enjoy Heaven & Earth and their estate Pinot Noir.
Dutton Estate Winery will be pouring My Father’s Syrah. …I didn’t even know my dad had Syrah! I’m sure it will be good though. They’ve also got Pinot and Chardonnay on tap wine thief.
Six Sigma Ranch Pro & Amateur Pruning Competition —Lower Lake: March 3, 10:00am – noon
Learn pruning from the pros and try your hand at it, too!
Cab Release Weekend at Velo Vino — St. Helena: March 3 – 4, 11:00am – 6:00pm
A special Vertical tasting of our 2006, 2007 and 2008 kit’s killer cab.
Charles Krug Winery Celebrates Charles Krug’s 187th Birthday — St. Helena: March 3, 6:00pm – 9:30pm
Imagine the light the birthday candles will put out! There’ll be appetizers and three-course wine dinner.
34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting – Northern Sonoma: March 2 – 4, 11:00am – 4:00pm
144 wineries open their doors this weekend, many will be offering futures. Advance ticket sales are over, but you can buy tickets at the door.
Inspiration Vineyards Winemaker Dinner — Santa Rosa: March 2, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
There are still a few seats available for this dinner and the menu looks great!
Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: March 2, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Unwind after work, or barrel tasting, to rock and reggae played by Oscar Caleron.
Hanzell Vineyards Winemaker Dinner at Santé — Sonoma: March 8, 6:30pm
Join Hanzell winemaker Michael McNeill for a delicious four-course dinner paired with past and current vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A Quick Plug:
The Wine Advocate will soon be releasing Antonio Galloni’s report on Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You can learn more about him and what he looks for wines by reading my in-depth interview with him. It’s being published in daily doses this week at NorCalWine.com.
Enjoy your weekend!
Clouds Restseems to be catching the wave in their reputation as a cult small, higher end, Pinot Noir producer. Any event I have seen them pouring at, from SF Vintners Market to Pinot on the River re-affirms that, as the line to get a
pour is usually a few persons deep.
I personally feel its a good idea for a wine producer to have a white wine to compliment their red portfolio, so was pleased to taste their Chardonnay. (Turns out they have a Sauvignon Blanc as well, who knew.)
Tasting Notes – Clouds Rest 2009 North Coast Chardonnay
To The Eye: Clear, medium yellow straw.
On The Nose: Tropical notes of pineapple, lemon, citrus, and some toasted coconut
In The Mouth: An elegant, balanced, Chardonnay. This represents an excellent balance between a high acid, bright, unoaked Chardonnay, and a over oaked classic California butter bomb. Good mouth feel, some minerality, and good acidity, this wine asks for a food pairing of seafood, roasted chicken, or pasta with cream sauce. A good crowd pleaser too for the upcoming Holiday’s.
Recommendation: Buy and drink or hold. This Chardonnay drinks very well at present, but has the acidity and structure to gain some complexity with cellaring – I would recommend laying a few bottles down, as a properly made Chardonnay with a few years of age can be beautiful thing. If you like your Chardonnay with less detectible oak, its presence (not overwhelming by any means) will integrate further in the next 12 months. 90 Points.
Where to Buy: Online. $45. (Media Sample.) Clouds Rest wines are also available in California restaurants and retail shops including John Ash, Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, the Healdsburg Wine Shop, Draeger’s, and more. For a full list, click here.
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/CloudsRestWine
It seems I am forever playing catchup on giving wineries the recognition they deserve on Simple Hedonisms. Certainly I do a lot more mentions in the social media realm of Twitter and Facebook, to my active following, but they are long overdue for a review.
About Jordan Winery: Showcasing Sonoma At It’s Finest
Jordan is an extraordinary winery in many ways, and a rare breed in many as well.
Focus: Jordan only makes two wines, something incredibly rare for a winery of any size. An elegant Chardonnay, and a ‘less masculine’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tradition: Founded in 1972 by Tom Jordan, now run by son John Jordan, the winery has a well earned reputation for its elegance,
world class wines, and customer service. Its also one of the rapidly disappearing ‘medium size wineries. Not a boutique winery making 5000 cases, and not a giant making 1 Million cases a year, but the difficult ~90,000 case range that has a unique set of challenges competing on either side.
Wineries in this size category continue to sell and merge, or in some cases over the years, dramatically downsize and spin off. Jordan continues to adapt, innovate, and do well.
Innovation: Jordan is a winery to watch for their innovative marketing, writing, and award winning video blog. John Jordan has done a noteworthy job hiring and enabling Lisa Mattson, Executive Director of Communications.
Lisa blazes a trail for the rest of the industry to follow. (Why wineries don’t recognize marketing staff on their ‘people page’ still eludes me.)
Do read and follow: http://blog.jordanwinery.com/
Hospitality: I have witnessed the Jordan experience both as a consumer and wine industry/trade, and its always warm, impeccable, and high class, but lacking ‘other valley’ pretention – aka Sonoma at its finest. I am fortunate enough to receive media invitations several times a year to Jordan events, and even in a world where these eventually can become a bit tedious, am grateful for the invitation, and look forward to the experience. Jordan’s kitchen, and Todd Knoll Executive Chef are amazing – you are in for a treat if ever here for a meal.
In Defense of Chardonnay
It’s a bit ironic that as a person noted for his love of Rhone and off the beaten path varietals, that I have championed chardonnay. Why? I actually respect and like almost all wine varieties, and think we have sometimes lost our way, or forgotten how diverse wine can, or should be. Few varietals express such a wide range of diversity as chardonnay – you need only be open mind, look around a bit, and taste more - its worth the adventure.
Yet, I had to drag people, including industry professionals, to my chardonnay tasting this summer (at which Jordan poured.) At the tasting, by design, I featured non traditional California chardonnay – that classic bigger oak & buttery chardonnay made popular by Kendall Jackson, Rombeur and others. Without a doubt , this style appeals to the masses and dominates chardonnay sales. However, it represents only one possible style of many that chardonnay is capable of, and not only produced in Burgundy and Chablis, France, but by many small vintners here in California.
For more on Chardonnay, and how people CAN change their opinions see:
To The Eye: Clear pale to medium yellow.
On the Nose: Green apple, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, pineapple
In The Mouth: – A delight. Great acidity, clean crisp mouthfeel with good weight mid palate. This chardonnay delivers as a stand alone, or paired with white meats and fish, salads, and cheeses.
Recommendation: Highly Recommend. Not your standard California ‘cougar juice’ (a term used to refer to Rombauer like oaky, buttery chardonnay) and also not as bright as an unoaked chardonnay – thus a more versatile wine overall. Buy and consume, (especially during Holiday season, pairs great with turkey.) Or cellar a few bottles as well, a well made chardonnay, with good acidity will age well.
92 Points, Outstanding.
Where to Buy: Jordan has distribution throught the country in wine shops and restaurants. You may also buy it online at http://store.jordanwinery.com/ . $29 retail. Media Sample.
Vinification Notes: Chardonnay is a extremely diverse wine grape with huge variation in results based on winemaking tools. Learn to identify what’s been done and what you like, to better appreciate this varietal.
Cold fermentation occurred in French oak barrels (with one quarter in stainless steel). After three months of sur-lie aging and batonnage, the wine underwent only 36% malolactic fermentation to retain its bright acidity. With a portion resting in stainless steel, the remaining 72% of the wine was aged in 100% French oak (56% new) for 5.5 months
Wine Geek Info:
- APPELLATION: Russian River Valley
- BLEND: 100% Chardonnay
- PH: 3.35
- ALCOHOL LEVEL: 13.8%
- BOTTLING DATES: July 19 – August 5, 2010
- RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2011
2009 Jordan Chardonnay Video Tasting Notes
Great video! Look for the notes on ”holding back on the oak” “more minerality” – which contribute to the success of the wine, in my opinion.
Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it (SF Chronicle – Jon Bonne’)
Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day
May 26th was international #Chardonnay day, organized by wine social media entity Rick Bakas. I am a believer in the varietal focused Live tastings, so to support of this, I held a private tasting of selected, 12 distinct producers, showcasing a variety of regions.
Rick did an excellent job covering the results in his article recap. Some highlights:
- Reach was over 4 million people.
- 29 MILLION impressions
- 12,000 related tweets
So…as a chardonnay producer, why didn’t you take part?
Combating Chardonnay Backlash
As this event drew near, I was observing some murmurs of backlash. One wine writer/blogger whom I respect and consider more knowledgeable than myself, reacted on Twitter by saying “celebrating Chardonnay day was like celebrating McDonalds.” Wow, jaw dropping, how did we get here? Even if you took the opinion that California produces no good chardonnay (somehow out of the thousands of Vintners)….you are writing off this varietal and all of the amazing French, widely varying styles? The Grand Cru white Burgundies? Steely, minerally Chablis? Really?
If there is one thing I stand for as a wine writer, its pursuit of assisting others in their wine education by exposure, and ending some of the inane myths. Calfornia chardonnay has come a long way, as highlighted by Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne’ in Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it.
It’s slightly ironic – a wine writer & evaluator who often expresses support for lesser known varietals, rushing to the aid of Chardonnay? The ‘Rhonehound’ himself battling against the ABC (anything but chardonnay) crowd? The United States Number One white varietal hardly needs my help, right? Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand vineyards in Europe have ripped out traditional unique varieties to plant this chardonnay. I scratch my head at very hot regions growing chardonnay, when the vineyard would do so much better with whites intended for warm climates.
But, this reaction, and some of the feet dragging I was also getting from industry friends in supporting the tasting, made me all the more determined to provide some perpective. Much of the ‘ABC’ backlash, in my experience, comes from exposure to only the big California, oaky butter bombs, like the popular Rombeur chardonnay. This style has earned the term ‘cougar juice’ – its a valid style, and if you like it, great. But what a shame to write off one of the most diverse white wines there is, just because of one style.
Chardonnay is like a blank canvas, and responds, expresses well the many options available to a winemaker from fermentation vessels (new oak, neutral oak, concrete, stainless), aging vessels (same), primary and secondary fermentation options, climate, ripeness, clone selection and so many other variables. If you like a steely sauvignon blanc, or a modest Rhone white blend, odds are there are styles of Chardonnay you will like.
If you are one of those “real wine drinkers don’t drink white” or “I don’t drink white” …your journey of exploration and awareness has far to go. Once you truly open up the world to white wine and its hundreds of varieties and styles, globally, and its more subtle nuances, your world is forever changed. Never stop trying, tasting, or exploring.
The Producers I Gathered
At first, not knowing how many I would get for this tasting, I extended offers to friends and producers I liked. As word got out and the day got closer, last minute requests flooded in, and I had to say no to some, not because I didn’t like the wines, but I had space constraints, keeping the audience to around 80 people, wanted focus, and most importantly, diversity, by region and style. I had originally planned only six producers.
This is the great lineup I ended up:
- Rivino Winery from Mendocino poured their stainless/no ML chardonnay.
- kopriva – 2009 Carneros unoaked Chardonnay paired with Hog Island Oysters.
- Inspiration Vineyards - 2008 & 2009 Russian River for comparison
- VineCrowd (representing k. furtado & Hirsch) VineCrowd is a new site that provides wine drinkers with the opportunity to connect directly to a handfulof cutting edge, independent wineries through a user-friendly social web driven website. Poured the 2009 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay and the k. furtado Bien Nacido Chardonnay.
- Donelan Wines poured their 2009 Donelan Nancie Chardonnay (also with Vinecrowd.)
- Gloria Ferrer – Started with a splash of Blanc de Blanc bubbles, then their new release 2008 Carneros Chardonnay.
- Old World Winery 2008 Chardonnay, Tweek Block.
- Jordan 2008 & 2009 Chardonnay.
- Vintage Wine Estates Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Windsor Vineyards RRV.
- Chamisal Vineyards from San Luis Obispo: -Chamisal Vineyards (Edna Valley) – 2010 Stainless Chardonnay and 2008 Estate Chardonnay-Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley) – 2008 Dijon Clones Chardonnay (Carneros)
You can view a more detailed 2 page spreadsheet that attendees received that have more notes on each wine, here on Google Docs.
Event Feedback – A Huge Success
I have been writing and discussing regularly that wine tasting events need to evolve to new formats. Based on feedback both from attendees and producers, and we may have hit on one here. Since the event was private and went to mostly friends, most of the crowd was very knowledgeable, with a heavy mix of industry.
Feedback was gushing next day. A PR wine veteran shared they had been reluctant to come and came away with a completely fresh perspective on California chardonnay. Many echoed similar. Producers expressed they were very happy with the very high level of enthusiasm and sincere interest. The greenhouse was abuzz with energy and excitement. It was one of the most lively tastings I had observed in some time. Most of the photos are courtesy of Damon Mattson Photography – you can see the whole Facebook album here.
We couldn’t have fit any more people inside. I had expected people to come in waves, but for the most part they clustered around the same time. Space got a bit tight, and noise a bit loud, but neither became unmanageable. To accommodate more people – additional space outside the greenhouse, and/or two different times would be needed. I am examining a number of tweaks for the next event.
The Top Picks By Attendees
With 12 producers and 17 wines, not everyone tasted through them all. (Self included.) There were several surprises for me, and some wines I really liked I had not had before. My personal favorite of the ones I tried was the Donelan 09 Nancie. Twenty four hours of skin contact gave great aromatics and texture, the wine maker Tyler exercises restraint with oak, and produced and elegant, unique expression of Chardonnay. I was pleasantly surprised with the new 2008 Gloria Ferrer. Their still wines are made for food pairings, and thus their Chardonnay is often more robust, but this year had greater balance than previous vintages, and I thought was an excellent value. The Rivino stainless, no malo chard was also a standout. Unoaked chard can sometimes be a bit too bright and austere, but this had excellent round fruit and weight.
I hope to do a review of all the wines, as I only got to about half, and had little time to really focus. Each producer donated a bottle to that effect.
Below is a chart of the attendee picks. I almost hate to publish top picks, as by design, these were all quite different, and feedback from attendees was that it was hard to pick.
For this ‘contest’ attendees picked their top 3. Not everyone voted, (only about 35% did) and as mentioned, not everyone tasted through all 17 wines poured. I will streamline consumer feedback for the next event with improved handouts, and perhaps may use simple scores of 1-10.
The chart is simple: it shows the number of votes each wine received as an attendees’ #1, 2 or 3 vote. As you can see, the votes are very spread out, with all wines receiving some votes.
‘Total Score’ is the unweighted total number of votes. The ‘Winner’ was determined by the ‘Weighted Score;’ 3 points for a #1, 2 Points for #2, 1 point for #1. I also highlighted in gray, the top 3 in each ranking.
1. kopriva : No matter how you slice the data kopriva was the favorite of the day. (I have always been a big fan). This wine is a direct opposite of a California cougar juice. The kopriva team were also brilliant to pair it with Hog Island oysters, who’s briny minerality make it shine. Indeed, in bragging about to kopriva to a friend once, she thought it was decent, but a bit plain for her. We then paired it with some oysters, and she fell in love too.
kopriva garnished 22 percent of the #1 picks, as well as the highest #2. Weighted or unweighted, they had the top overall score – bravo!
2. Donelan 09 Nancie chardonnay: Their inaugural release, inched out a #2 choice. The 2nd highest weighted score.
3. Hirsch 09 : The Hirsch 2009 had the 3rd highest weighted score.
From here the numbers quickly clump, again reflect a wide like factor of all the wines. Pine Ridge, Chamisal, Rivino, and Gloria Ferrer also did well.
What’s Next – Pinot Day, August 18th – Taking Applicants
As I did with Chardonnay, I will be seeking a certain profile of Pinot. There has been moderate wine press recently by Jon Bonne’, Jancis Robinson and others, discussing Pinot Noir starting to return to its more elegant form. Over the years Pinot has crept up in color and alcohol, over ripened and over extracted, chasing the new World Palate, and trying to lure less knowledgeable drinkers weened on Cabernet, who think there is something wrong with red wine that is light in color.
I am looking for Pinot that is more reflective of the vintage, terroir, and is balanced, with good acidity. If you are a Pinot producer that fits this, and would like to pour, or have someone represent you and pour, please contact me. If I am not familiar with your wine, I may request a sample prior to accepting. Right now we are focused on OR and CA, but I would love Pinot from any region and importer that fits the targeted intent.
I also intend to lead and organize a Rhone varietal tasting this fall, on behalf of the Rhone Rangers.
Next Event – Venue Tweaks
During the event, I thought there were a few glitches and areas of improvement:
Parking: Thanks to last minute unexpected rain, one side of the road was bad for parking, and despite warnings in the email update, AAA pulled out 4 cars! Winter tastings and parking will be a challenge in the winter I will need to address, as both sides of the road become unparkable in wet season.
Temperature: Luckily we had a normal Russian River summer evening and the weather cooled down. That is normally the case, but a summer heat spike out of the norm, could impact our Pinot day tasting.
Twitter Coverage: All in all things came out well, but there is always room for improvement. I had a lot to do to pull this off and get my place ready, and I ran out of time on a few things I had planned. Technical glitches prevented me from projecting the Twitterfeed. AT&T works poorly on the farm, so I had extended wifi coverage to reach the Greenhouse, but many people were not aware. One producer shared disappointment, they only saw their brand mentioned once. I was so busy, and I think people were so engaged, social media coverage became secondary to face to face interaction. Personally, I only had time to Tweet twice! There is also the challenge that people know the hashtag, secondary hashtag, and your Twitter handle. I will improve signage and communication next time, but people don’t often read details. More check-in help would also be useful.
Wine Sales: I’d like to explore permits so wineries could take orders. Again, the cost must be low. Wineries don’t want to pay table fees, and consumers don’t want to pay high entry fees; so keeping costs low is a part of this. Even just selling a small amount of wine, helps offset the ROI for the winery for the event. (Time, travel, wine.)
Crowd Breakdown: I’d like to perhaps divide the tasting into two times and groups, and perhaps start with a Trade (Retail, restaurant, distribution) and Media Tasting, and then an everyone else. Part of the problem is that despite all the events I host; I haven’t done a good job creating a trade list – something I will need to work on.
Thoughts and Feedback
I’d love any comments, ideas and suggestions. Also if you were one of the 80 attendees or 12 producers pouring, share your thoughts and comments.
There is a growing new phenomenon that combines wine tasting and social media – virtual tastings. There are numerous ways to do these, but the concept is consistent. People all over the state, country, even the world, participate in sharing wine. Sometimes its via the same producer, with samples sent to media, sometime its for a winery sales training or wine club, sometimes its recognition and celebration of a wine variety.
Generally someone takes the lead as organizer, sets the stage, and people join in, as co-hosts, or participants. The social media platform Twitter, is generally the platform used to share tasting notes, comments etc, especially by trade, media, bloggers, and passionate consumers. In my experience the stronger and social media adept the leader, the better the event. And vice versa. This one is led by Rick Bakas, one of the earliest leaders of wine social media, and very adept at this venue.
Why Wineries Should Care – And Participate
Rick will share the final stats, but the pre-event mentions, views, and impressions are very impressive, already surpassing millions, and for much of the world the event hasn't kicked in yet. (It is drinking time in Australia.) Its a great way to promote your flagship varietal, release and brand, and be a part of the virtual community. AVA's and Growers should care too.
Or just sit on the sidelines and watch…this whole social media thing is a fad, right? Kinda like what they said about the Internet. Facebook doesn't really have 500 million users, 200 million mobile (excludes China) and is the number one website in world…really.
What the heck is the # In Front of Chardonnay?
Its Twitterspeak. It's called a Hashtag. Nothing to do with Amsterdam. Its basically a sorting mechanism. If you go to Twitter main page or to http://search.twitter.com/ and type in something with a the hashtag, you can see all the latest “Tweets' that have mentioned that hashtag.
It may be a common one like #fail or #followfriday or #nascar. Some are just made up and silly, others are created speficically for an event by the organizer. Since Tweets only allow 140 characters, and are suggested to stay at around 120 (except for Robert Parker, who can't stick to 140.) generally we keep them as short as possible. Wine Road Barrel Tasting = #WRBT. Rhone Rangers San Francisco Tasting= #RRSF. Sometimes the year is added like Taste Alexander Valley = #TAV11.
So I am not on Twitter, Does that Mean I Am excluded?
By no means. First of all I always encourage the SOCIAL in Social Media. Get the heck off your phone and PC and go interact with live human beings. There are many wineries offering tastings, gatherings and more. You can find information in several places including http://chardday.eventbrite.com/ as well as Meetup.com/Chardonnay.
Rick Bakas, wrote an excellent summary article: “Everyone is Invited to the Virtual Tasting Table.”
You can also follow just by using your web browser, regardless if you are on Twitter. Just go to Twitter.com and in the search field type #chardonnay or click here.
Look the Aussies are already at it!
Personal Event: Hosting 11 Special Producers for 80 Attendees – Greenhouse Tasting
As my own contribution, I have gathered 11 producers of many different styles, and areas: Russian River, Napa Valley, Central Coast, Mendocino, Sonoma Coast and styles; medium bodied California, unoaked/stainless 'naked', neutral oak French/Burgundian.
California Chardonnay fought for years with a bad reputation, and has finally earned a respectable position, by steering away from the heavy oak, Malolactic butter bombs, affectionately also known as 'coug
ar juice' in many circles. (If that needs more explaining, let me know in comments.)
The secondary hashtag for my event, in addition to #chardonnay is #NOCG (no cougar juice.)
I was one of those “ABC – Anything But Chardonnay” people for years until I discovered the incredible wide range both in California, and especially globally. Since no-one would fly in from France or Australia, we are sticking to California.
A Special Lot of Producers for the Greenhouse Tasting.
If I may say so myself, we are damn lucky to have such a range of producers, many small and hard to find, all of high quality. These include:
- Rivino Winery from Mendocino will pour their stainless/no ML chardonnay.
- kopriva – Pouring their Carneros unoaked Chardonnay paired with Hog Island Oysters.
- VineCrowd (representing k. furtado & Hirsch) VineCrowd is a new site that provides wine drinkers with the opportunity to connect directly to a handful of cutting edge, independent wineries through a user-friendly social web driven website. http://VineCrowd.com. Pouring the 2009 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay and the k. furtado Bien Nacido Chardonnay. They will also have producer Donelan Wines will be pouring their 2009 Donelan Nancie Chardonnay
- Gloria Ferrer – Start with a splash of bubbles, then taste their 2008 Carneros Chardonnay – New Release. Paired with mini quiche
- Vintage Wine Estates Will be pouring Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Windsor Vineyards RRV.
- Chamisal Vineyards from San Luis Obispo will be pouring:
-Chamisal Vineyards (Edna Valley) – 2010 Stainless Chardonnay and 2008 Estate Chardonnay-Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley) – 2008 Dijon Clones Chardonnay (Carneros)
Most tables will also have a simple food pairing to showcase their wine. $5 donation requested to offset costs.
We are also fortunate to have Rick Bakas, being based in Marin, to attend.
We had a few cancellations from attendees, and will also waitlist. Please RSVP on Eventbrite at http://greenhousetasting.eventbrite.com.
If we are at room capacity, and you have not RSVP, you may be turned away. Check in and name tags are also streamlined via RSVPs.
Based on enthusiasm both by producers and attendees I think I may be onto something. Look for an upcoming #Pinot day in conjunction with Ed Thralls, as well as a Rhone variety day, on behalf of the Rhone Rangers, and perhaps teamed up with another organization. Additionally I have held a few private wine maker tastings and look to more, as well as a few 'secret' dinners by guest chefs.
I have several other significant updates for readers and the industry, but those will have to wait until next week – until then, enjoy #chardonnay day, and cheers!
It’s funny how one’s palate changes over time with wine given enough exposure and diversity. A decade ago I was a solid “ABC” wine drinker – ‘Anything But Chardonnay.” Like many I was stunted by the low end California oak and butter bombs, best served near freezing if possible.
Over time I discovered what diversity chardonnay has, and learned to appreciate styles from other countries such as Australia, and of course France, whose diversity of chardonnay styles is almost overwhelming, and few others resemble the old California style. I also became a fan a few years ago of unoaked or ‘naked’ chardonnay – when done right, such as Kopriva.
I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Folie à Deux sample I received over the Holidays; a sub $20 fairly distributed wine, with I believed was a large production. I later read the data sheet and saw only 25,000 cases were made.) I was assured there was no pressure or expectations with the samples – enjoy them; writing was optional.
For those of you less fluent in French (like me) ‘ Folie à Deux’ is named for the French term meaning ‘shared fantasies’ and ‘represents the fulfillment of a dream to create a beautiful dance of flavors and true varietal expression.’
Folie à Deux 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay
The fruit for was sourced from Napa Valley vineyards in the Northern part of Chardonnay territory including Oak Knoll, Oakville, and Atlas Peak. Part of of the juice fermented in stainless steel tanks, the balance of wine fermented in small oak barrels to help round out the finish. After fermentation, the wine was aged in French and American oak for 6 months.
On the Nose: Green apple, tropical fruit, vanilla, hint of coconut
In The Mouth: Rich mouth feel. Citrus, pineapple, peach. Good mid palate, and lingering acidity at finish. Oak is present, but modest. (A tad surprised since was some American oak.) Good balance.
Where to Buy: Website, Some distribution. $18 on Web. Media Sample.
You can also visit their Napa tasting room.
Food Pairing: Pairing mine tonight with my seasonal favorite dungeness crab. Try crab cakes, chicken or pasta with cream sauce.
Recommendation: This wine is <$20, and possibly ~$15 retail. This is a very drinkable chardonnay for under $20, that will please many, not embarrass you, and not break the bank, as well as pair widely with a good variety of foods. I’d have no problem picking this up on the run and taking it home, or someone’s house. Recommend.
(p.s. I love the suggested ‘song pairing’ “Suggested Song Pairing: “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,”by Otis Redding.)
Wine Geek Info:
- Alcohol: 14.2%
- T.A.: 0.57g/100ml
- pH: 3.58
- R.S.: 0.28 g/100ml
The Russian River Valley (RRV) has emerged over the last decade as a world renowned region of wine growing. It’s especially recognized for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but many great varietals from Rhones like roussanne and cool climate syrah, to cool climate zinfandel are produced here.
This weekend, August 20-22 is the showcase event for RRV, the 15th Annual Grape to Glass.
Friday August 20th
There are several great events to choose from Friday:
Your very own VIP CellarPass to tour our many participating wineries and discover what makes each sensational. Hosted by CellarPass, an online reservation tool for planning and booking wine country events, wineries will open exclusive bottles and surprise you with their own special attraction. Visit at least four participating wineries and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a return trip back to the Russian River Valley in 2011. 11 a.m. – 430 p.m. $45
Taste an amazing array of the best of Russian River food and wine, hosted at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.
The Evening’s Schedule:
6:00pm – 8:00pm Russian River Valley Varietal Hosted Garden Tasting
8:15pm – 9:45pm Concert with Nick Palance – No Host Bar, No Host Small Plates
10:00pm – 10:45pm Nick Palance Reception & Signing, No Host Bar
Saturday August 21st
Saturday features a wide array of activities and seminars: everything from Kayaking the Russian River, to Seminars on Green Farming, or touring Pinot Noir Neighborhoods. No matter what your interest in food and wine, there is something for everyone; for the complete list click here. Events have limited space so don’t wait too long!
The amazing day wraps up with the spectacular HOG IN THE FOG ~ Festival of Plenty, hosted at the fabulous Richards Grove in Saralee’s Vineyard, in Windsor, a venue open only a few times a year for events.
The Russian River Valley Winegrowers annual Hog in the Fog ~ Festival of Plenty BBQ is a perennial favorite with its TasteFest and auction. This year add’s live music, art by our vintner artists, and a surprise guest chef known for firing up great BBQ recipes.
The event features more than fifty Russian River Valley wineries, small-bites produced from our region’s fabulous food products, silent auction items, and arts created by our versatile and talented vintners. Grape growers will be prepare the evening’s plentiful BBQ feast.
Dinner will be paired (of course) with Russian River Valley wines. Vintners and growers will roll up their sleeves and make the rounds with great bottles. The evening commences with a live auction featuring rare library wines and lifestyle packages. $115/person.
What better way to spend a Sunday, with Bubbles and gorgeous views at the BUBBLES & PIXELS ~ A Sparkling Pink Finish at Iron Horse Vineyards, a personal favorite.
Set on the Sterling family’s stunning 350-acre estate, Bubbles & Pixels will feature the Sparkling & Pink wines of the Russian River Valley. Wines are served with a family-style brunch, created by a top wine country chef and featuring local produce and artisan food products.
A panel of judges will announce the winners of the TasteLive Photo Contest. 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. $80
Have a GREAT Weekend, the Weather looks to
I have been a fan of C. Donatiello since I discovered them some 18 months ago, both for their wines, and the gorgeous property.
For those who may not yet be familiar with C. Donatiello or its location, Chris Donatiello, in partnership with Bill Hambrecht, purchased the facilities from Belvedere in 2006, and have morphed it into a world class facility and producer of stunning Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
C. Donatiello’s winemaker is Webster Marquez, also referred to as Web. An affable winemaker, Web is focused, committed, and always chasing making his best vintage yet, he comes to C. Donatiello from famous Pinot producer Williams Selyem. (He also has his own small label, Anthill Farms.)
In addition to their winery being a pleasure to visit, renowned for casual yet elegant service, each Sunday from late June through October 3rd they feature live music, with acts from all over the U.S. at no charge. It’s one of my Sunday’ faves, I almost hate to share to keep it smaller, but somethings are too good to keep to your self.
I was long overdue for a full tasting review; and was delighted for an invitation, as well as be one of the first for their new wine and cheese pairing which for $20, is one of the most underpriced, amazing Hedonistic pairings going on in Russian River. More on this in another post, but take my word for it, call for an appointment to schedule one of these.
Color: Lighter cranberry color, slightly opaque. (A thankful break from the ridiculously dark Pinot’s being produced today by many.)
Aroma: Cherry, Cranberry, with a pleasant touch of Earthiness
In The Mouth: Elegant. Despite the youth of this release, it’s a pleasure in the mouth, with velvet texture, wonderful balance and mouthfeel. Flavors of cherry and red fruit, with a nice finish, and lingering acidity.
Price: $49 Retail
Wine Geek Info:
- Harvest Date – Sept 4, 2008
- Barrel Program – 10 months French Oak, 35% new
- Bottled – July 22, 2009
- 400 cases produced