Sips of White Wines Tasted Recently
2012 Briceland Vineyards Spirit Canyon Vineyard Mendocino County Arneis
13.1% alc., $17. Arneis is an Italian grape known as
the “white Nebbiolo.” Historically it was blended to soften the tannins
of Barolo and but has become a new varietal on its own. Less than
100 acres planted in California. Vines planted and organically grown
by Glen McCourty, the California Extension Agriculture Agent for
Mendocino and Lake Counties.
Very pale yellow color and clear in the
glass. Charming aromas of tropical fruits, banana and pear. An
interesting array of flavors including Poire William, lemon, wax, and a touch of
“minerality” and lime zest. Good creamy texture with vibrant acidity. A
distinctive aromatic white wine that is perfect for the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd.
2012 Briceland Vineyards Humboldt County Chardonnay
13.8% alc., $21. From Ronda’s Vineyard in
Southern Humboldt County and Ishi Pishi Ranch near Orleans in northeastern Humboldt County. All stainless
steel fermented. 100% malolactic fermentation.
Very light yellow color and clear in the glass. Slight spritz
upon pouring. Aromas of lemon curd, apple, honey and buttered popcorn. Pleasant but delicate flavors of
lemon and green apple with a good cut of acidity and a brisk finish featuring lemon-lime zest.
2012 Briceland Vineyards Lolonis Vineyard Mendocino County Chardonnay
13.9% alc., $21.
Produced from certified organic grapes. Stainless steel fermented with no malolactic fermentation.
Light straw color and clear in the glass. Lemon-scented nose with hints of grapefruit, apple butter and
buttered brioche. Moderately intense flavors of lemongrass, lime and apple with the slightest note of
dried herbs. Sound acids and good grip with a crisp finish make for very pleasurable drinking.
2011 Byron Nielson Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.36, TA 0.59, 294 cases,
$32. Released November 2012. Santa Barbara’s first commercial vineyard planted by Uriel Nielson in 1964.
The Byron Estate is located on the site of Nielson’s original plantings. Clone 95 and Wente. 100% native yeast
barrel fermented with 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 12 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Reserved aromatically with shy aromas of honey, vanilla
and pastry cream. Full-flavored core of lemon drop, baked pear, honey, gingerbread and caramel. Very plush
and creamy on the palate, lacking a little grip, but exhibiting accomplished use of oak as an adjunct.
2011 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.66, 510 cases, $38. This vineyard is managed by thirdgeneration
farmers, brothers Mike and Steve Sangiacomo with their brother-inlaw,
Mike Pucci. Planted in 1998, and located in the Petaluma Gap, the Robert’s
Road block is rooted in alluvial soils with tracks of gravel. The vines are farmed
to La Follette’s specifications. The clone is Old Wente. Crafted in a reductive
style. In 2011, ripening was difficult, so low other Sangiacomo blocks were used
to build the trademark richness of this wine. Native primary and secondary
fermentations. Aged 10 months sur lie with early bâttonage.
Light golden straw
color and clear in the glass. Perfumed aromas of grapefruit pith, lemon, honey,
yeasty brioche and popcorn. Delicious on entry and finish with an appealing array of flavors including lemon,
green apple, baking spices, even clove, crème brûlée and toasty oak. Very silky and engaging with
2011 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.3% alc., 621 cases, $38. Release
September 2013. Ron and Pam Kaiser farm their 40-acre vineyard located four miles north of Gary Farrell
winery. The vines were planted in 1989 to Clone 4 on deep, river-deposited sandy loam soils.
straw color and clear in the glass. Subdued aromas of citrus and buttered corn. Very understated and elegant,
with delicate flavors of lemon, green apple and faint oak contributions. Picks up some intensity and interest
over time in the glass and leaves a brisk, refreshing impression. Should improve with more bottle age.
2011 Gary Farrell Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.23, TA 0.74, 315 cases, $45. Release
May 2013. Sourced from the Pellegrini Family’s Olivet Lane Vineyard
that was originally planted in 1975 on the Santa Rosa Plain. This 65-
acre vineyard was one of the first in the Russian River Valley planted
to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The clone is Wente selection on AXR
rootstock. The regular fog intrusion and well-drained clay loam soils
are ideal for growing Chardonnay. Aged 7 months in 40% new French
oak barrels. Inaugural release from this vineyard and what a winner!
golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon, honey, pineapple
and buttery oak lead to a delicious fruit-charged wine with a bevy of citrus, lemongrass and caramel flavors
lifted by an hi-tone cut of acidity. A seductive creaminess adds to the appeal and the tonal finish perks up the
palate for more. Quintessential Russian River Valley Chardonnay with a historical pedigree.
2011 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.24, TA 0.72, 405
cases, $50. Released May 2013. Aged 7 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light straw color
and clear in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of lemongrass, apple, white peach and lemon peel. Creamy
and full on the mid palate, offering relatively intense flavors of lemon, grilled pineapple, vanilla and roasted
nuts. Thoroughly enjoyable with plenty of verve despite its fruit load, finishing with a lovely lemon drop note.
2012 Ten Acre Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.65, 190 cases, $28.
This wine comes from Monte Negra Vineyard planted in 1999 to clone 4. Fermented
in 40% stainless steel and 60% neutral French oak barrels.
Very light yellow pear color and clear in
the glass. Aromas of Asian pear, banana, walnuts, pastry cream and vanilla wafer. Tasty core of
lemon, pear and green apple fruits. A clean, restrained, bracing style of Chardonnay that drinks easy,
finishing on a refreshing note of yellow fruits with a zip of acidity.
2010 Thomas Fogarty Albutom Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
pH 3.27, TA 0.73, <75 cases, $56. Released June 15, 2013. From a .25-acre plot, the smallest block of estate
Chardonnay. Dry farmed on a very rocky site with loam over gravel and bedrock with fractured shale soils.
This wine is typically recognized by its minerality and bright acidity. Aged 18 months in 100% new French oak
Light to medium golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of apples, peaches, buttered toast
and petrichor. Clean, brisk and steely, characterized by mildly tart lemon and green apple flavors with very little
oak evident. More hi-strung, bracing and reserved than the Langley Hill Chardonnay. Comparing this wine to
the Langley Hill Vineyard Chardonnay is a great lesson in terroir.
2010 Thomas Fogarty Langley Hill Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
12.9% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.60, 95
cases, $56. The Langley Hill is the large plot of estate Chardonnay
(5.25 acres). It occupies a steep hillside at 1925 feet elevation, and is
a very cool site. Loam, sandstone, shale and marine deposits in the
soil. Harvest was the latest in the nearly 30 year history of Thomas
Fogarty, picking well into November. Whole-cluster pressed followed
by a cool barrel fermentation. Aged 18 months in 100% new French
Light golden yellow and clear in the glass. I like oak with
my Chardonnay and it adds just the right character in this wine. Aromas of
grilled yellow peach, cashew butter, roasted almonds and ocean air. Delicious primary fruit flavors of peach,
pear, and lemon, with secondary flavors of toasted brioche and honey, holding on with some persistence on the
finish. Very clean and uplifting with palate cleansing acidity and a brisk, satisfying finish. One of the best
Chardonnays I have tasted in recent memory. My wife also went ga-ga over this wine and some have tabbed
her the “Queen of Chardonnay.”