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Sips of Recently Tasted California Chardonnay

2011 El Molino Rutherford Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., 856 cases, $60. Grapes are from the estate Star Vineyard. Chardonnay vines planted in 1978. Clones are Wente 4, Stony Hill and Atlas Peak. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Bold aromas of lemon rind, pineapple and toasty oak. Incredible depth of flavor including lemon pudding, yellow peach and burnt caramel. A voluptuous offering with a good tug of oak but a bright vein of acidity keeping the wine in focus. Score: 91

2012 Ernest Vineyards Rued Vineyard Dutton Ranch Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.4% alc., 180 cases, $42. Rued-Z clone. Aged in 27% new French oak and 49% stainless steel. 33% malolactic fermentation. · Moderate light golden yellow color in the glass. A uniquely aromatic wine with scents of pineapple, lemongrass and floral perfume. Bright and crisp on the palate, with flavors of yellow stone fruits, lemon, tangerine and vanilla, and a vein of stony minerality in the background. Score: 87

2012 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.6% alc., pH 3.26, TA 0.69, 400 cases, $50. Release May 2014. The majority of this blend comes from the River Block clone 5 planted in 1989. Harvest Brix 22.5º. Whole cluster pressed, inoculated with Montrachet yeast, transferred to 40% new French oak barrels and 500-L puncheons for fermentation and 8 months of barrel aging. Racked off the lees once just before bottling. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of petrichor, lemon, nut oils and eau de vie de poire. Somewhat lush on the palate, with appealing flavors of lemon curd, green apple, white peach, finishing with a grip of juicy minerality. Score: 90

2012 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.8% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.65, 317 cases, $50. Sourced from two adjacent vineyards, Rochioli and Allen. Mainly clones 76 and 15 from three blocks of the Allen Vineyard and the balance is clone 5 from the Rochioli River Block. Harvest Brix 22.5º-23.0º. Whole cluster pressed using two regimens. River Block grapes pressed using a slightly more extractive program, while a gentle, modified Champagne program was used for the smaller clusters of the Allen Vineyard. After pressing, the juice was transferred for native fermentation and 8 months of barrel aging in 40% new French oak barrels and 500-L puncheons. The wine was racked off the primary lees only once before bottling. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Clean and bright on the nose with aromas of lemon, citrus blossom, golden apple, and passion fruit. Richly flavored with baked apple, yellow peach, apricot and caramel with a creamy mouth feel and a burst of electric, citrus-driven acidity on the finish. Score: 90

2011 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.66, $25. Numerous Chardonnay clones and selections grown in a variety of soil types. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented, lees stirring in barrel every 4 weeks for 6 months, aged in 100% French oak barrels for 9 months. 50% malolactic fermentation. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. The nose offers primarily oak-driven aromas with notes of baked pear and peach in the background. Slightly creamy on the palate, with flavors of pear, peach, nut oils, citrus and spice with a good underbody of citrus-driven acidity. More appealing the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 88

2012 Heintz Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.52, 200 cases, $45. Clone 4 (Wente) on AXR1 planted in 1982. Barrel fermented, 11 months in barrel on lees with stirring 1 to 2 times per month only until malolactic fermentation complete. Aged in 35% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. A reference wine for California Chardonnay. High brow aromas of lemon, Granny Smith apple, marzipan and toast lead to flavors of lemon curd, honeyed nuts, toasty oak and a hint of tropical fruits. Polished and seductive with perfect harmony between California fruit hedonism and bright, mineral-driven acidity. Still invigorating the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 95

2012 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.0% alc., 3,970 cases, $55. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 14 months in 35% new and 65% 2 to 3-year-old French oak puncheons and barrels. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. A knockout nose features bright, fresh aromas of apple, yellow grapefruit, lemon zest and ocean air. Delicious and refreshing, with flavors of lemon curd, grapefruit, gooseberry and a hint of toasty oak. The finish is alive with lemon-driven, stony acidity and lasts and lasts. Bring on the oysters. Score: 93

2012 Kosta Browne One Sixteen Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.61, $58. Grapes sourced from Boudreaux, Charles Ranch, El Diablo, Heintz, Searby, Ulises Valdez and Zio Tony vineyards. Multiple clones. 93% barrel fermented and aged in 41% new French oak, 7% concrete fermented. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, orange blossom, lychee and buttery brioche. Creamy and full on the palate, with layers of flavor including lemon cake, lime, nectarine, caramel, and honey, finishing with some length and uplifting acidity. A decadent, succulent style that will find appeal. Score: 90

2012 MacPhail Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.55, 234 cases, $40. Released spring 2014. Sourced from Gap’s Crown Vineyard. Harvest Brix 25.4º. Dijon 96. 100% whole cluster pressed. 91% stainless steel tank fermented and 9% neutral barrel fermented. 60% malolactic fermentation. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Enjoyable aromas of lemon, banana, almond butter and sea spray. The flavors of lemon, green apple, pear and herbs are backed by well integrated acidity. A solid, unwooded, fruit-driven style for those who like their Chardonnay unplugged. Score: 87

2012 MacPhail Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.56, 450 cases, $45. Released spring 2014. Harvest Brix 25.4º. Dijon 76 and 96. 100% whole cluster pressed. Indigenous yeast fermentation. Aged 11 months sur lie with weekly lees stirring in 27% new, 23% 1-year-old, 23% 2-year-old, and 27% 3-year-old French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Fresh aromas of lemon zest, apple pan dowdy, nut oils and brown butter. Flavorful, moderately rich, and creamy on the palate with tastes of baked apple, lemon curd, buttery pear, and toasty oak, finishing with some warmth. Score: 88

2012 Phelps Creek Vineyards Columbia Gorge “Lynette” Chardonnay

13.7% alc., 178 cases, $N/A. 100% French oak barrel fermented using grapes from estate vineyards. Named in honor of owner, Bob Morus’ fiancee, Lynette. Dijon clone. · Mild golden yellow color in the glass. Interesting aromas of butter cream, nuts, briny minerality and cherry blossom. Quite flavorful and discreetly rich, with notes of lemon curd, pineapple, honey, and blond caramel. Slightly creamy on the palate with a lemon-driven finish. Still enjoyable two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating age ability. The flavors are the clincher. Score: 92

2010 Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $65. Barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Intriguing, many-faceted nose offering aromas of golden apple, creme brulee, green leaf and briny minerality. Full-flavored, even striking, with an array of lemon, golden apple, baked pear, golden toast and oak vanillin flavors. The plush mouth feel is very flattering and the lemon-infused, oak blessed finish has uncommon persistence for a Chardonnay. You will need your big boy pants on to handle this one. Score: 92

2012 Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.0% alc., pH 3.46, TA 0.56, 350 cases, $70. From 2.2 acres of Chardonnay planted to a clone from the Montrachet vineyard in Burgundy that has been dubbed “The Reuling Clone.” Whole cluster pressed to barrel, native yeast fermentation, and aging 10 months in 50% new and 50% used French oak barrels. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. A classical, French white Burgundy styled wine with aromas of lemon, lime, green apple, petrichor and toast. Discreet fruit flavors of lemon curd and white-fleshed fruits with complimentary smoky oak in the background. The wine has sound mineral-inflected acidity and proper balance to age. Score: 92

2011 Soliste Les Cailles Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.6% alc., 69 cases, $50. Fermented in concrete eggs from Burgundy for 11 months, then transferred to 100% neutral oak and aged an additional 11 months. · Light straw yellow color in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon, fresh pineapple, yellow peach and honeysuckle. Very bright in the mouth, with polished flavors of lemon curd, pear, and grapefruit. Crisp, with well integrated oak and a mouth watering finish. Score: 92

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