Sips of White Wines Tasted Recently
2013 Balletto Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.6% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.55, 1,273 cases, $28. Estate
grown and bottled. 65% Occidental Road, 18% Saxton Hill, and 17% Cider Ridge vineyards. Goldridge soils.
Harvest Brix 21.7º-23.3º. 70% clone 17 (Robert Young Selection) and 30% Old Wente clone. Barrel fermented
with lees stirring, 100% malolactic fermentation.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of green apple,
lime, lemon and buttery oak. Apple-driven flavors on the palate have good richness and are complimented by
oak. The wine is pleasant, but lacks a little vibrancy and finishes a bit shallow.
2013 CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $25, screwcap.
Light golden yellow color in the
glass. Plenty of nuance to discover in this delightful wine that
sports aromas of lemon curd, lemongrass, apple, and nutty oak.
A crisp and vibrant style, with flavors of citrus, pear, white peach
and kiwi, accented with the right amount of toasty brioche. Very
sleek in the mouth with bracing acidity on the refreshing finish. A great
2013 Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyard Malibu Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.51, 136 cases, $39.
First wine with Malibu Coast AVA designation. 900 vines are
planted in volcanic soils in proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Barrel fermented and aged 13 months sur lie in 25% new
French oak barrels. 100% malolactic fermentation.
light yellow color in the glass. The nose is clean and airy, with
scents of lemon zest, crushed shells, and a hint of buttery oak.
Very charming on the palate with bright flavors of white peach, citrus
fruits and the slightest oak compliment. Very refined, with impeccable
balance, and a pleasing cut of acidity creating a steely finish. I rarely use
the word seductive for Chardonnay, but this wine brings that to mind. A great lobster
Dutton Estate Winery Dutton Ranch farms over 80 unique separate vineyards located in the coolest areas
of the Russian River Valley, primarily in the appellation known as Green Valley.
2014 Dutton Estate Kylie’s Cuvée Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
alc., pH 3.25%, TA 0.68, 321 cases, $23. Named for second-born daughter. Sourced from Dutton
Ranch’s “Shop Block” in Green Valley. Whole cluster pressed, slowly fermented in stainless steel and
aged 3-4 months in neutral French oak barrels. No malolactic fermentation. Fined and filtered.
light platinum yellow color in the glass. Very nicely appointed nose with fragrant aromas of white
peach, grapefruit and grilled pineapple. The flavors echo the aromas with a touch of lemon-lime and
subtle grassiness typical of this varietal. Nicely composed with refreshing acidity that leads to a high pitched
2013 Dutton Estate Kyndell’s Reserve-Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.6% alc., pH
3.43, TA 0.62, 993 cases, 1,150 cases, $39. Sourced from Vine Hill Ridge Vineyard. Whole cluster pressed,
100% malolactic fermentation, aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light yellow
color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of lemon, apple and lychee lead to a creamy palate of apple, citrus, honey
and blonde caramel flavors with a hint of slate in the background. A restrained, but very enjoyable style that
exhibits exemplary balance.
2013 Dutton Estate Dutton Palms Vineyard-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.63, 121
cases, 150 cases, $43. Vineyard is located in the coolest part of the Green Valley of Russian River Valley, and
was planted from the Chardonnay clone (Dutton clone) Warren Dutton used in 1967 to plant the original “Shop
Block” Chardonnay Vineyard at Dutton Ranch. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 100% natural
malolactic fermentation, aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light golden straw
color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of apple, lemon marmalade and banana. Juicy and crisp in the
mouth, with flavors of ripe peach, lemon curd and subtle oak highlights. Very charming, with some finishing
intensity and admirable balance.
2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay
alc., pH 3.35, TA .68, 5,861 cases, $35. Released May 2015. Sourced from seven premium
vineyards. Harvest Brix 22º-23º. Whole cluster pressed, inoculated with Montrachet yeast,
fermented and aged in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new, for 8 months.
Light platinum yellow
color in the glass. Aromas of citrus, pear and warm brioche lead to lush flavors of lemon, tropical
citrus, dark caramel and crème brûlée. Slightly creamy on the palate with noticeable oak infusion,
finishing crisp in the Gary Farrell style.
2013 Gary Farrell Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay
13.8% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.68, 5,881 cases, $55. Released May 2015. A
blend from seven vineyards. Harvest Brix 22º-23º. Whole cluster
pressed, inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Aged sur lie 8 months in
100% French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the
glass. Very enticing aromas of lemon oil, pineapple, tropical fruits and a
hint of new oak. Soft and smooth on the palate, yet enough vibrant
acidity to bring the citrus, apple and pear fruits to life. Good richness and
viscosity, with admirable integration of oak, and an uplifting finish fueled
by bracing acidity.
2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
alc., pH 3.11, TA 0.64, 205 cases, $28. Release June 2015. Sourced from Ritchie Vineyard vines
planted in 1972 to clone 1. Harvest Brix 22.0º. 80% fermented and aged in stainless steel and 20%
fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels. The final blend was aged 3 months on primary
Light platinum color in the glass. Lovely and complex on the nose with aromas of pear, lemon,
grilled pineapple, canned peach and apricot. Delicious on the palate with good grip, featuring flavors
of pear and white stone fruits. A terrific wine that drinks effortlessly and finishes with silken acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most underrated and underpriced wines now produced in California. Check it
2014 Harper Voit Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Old Vine Riesling
12.7% alc., RS 13g/L, 85 cases,
$30. Vines planted in 1970.
Very light golden yellow
color in the glass. Complex and assertive nose
featuring aromas of poached pear, grilled peach,
marzipan, citrus, brioche and vanilla. A lovely wine
that charms with its liveliness and freshness,
featuring flavors of pear, peach, persimmon and even
tropical fruits. More fruity than mineral driven and not the apparent
acidity that expect from this varietal, but I love this peachy rendition. I
don’t think I have ever experienced such an intense and amazingly long
finish in a domestic Riesling. A very unique and special old vine
2014 Harper Voit Surlie Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc
13.6% alc., 400 cases, $20. Sourced from
Meredith Mitchell and Yamhill vineyards. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees.
Very light yellow
color with a greenish tinge in the glass. Reserved, but fresh aromas of white peach and pear. A
demure wine on the palate, but quite seductive, with flavors of pear and peach and perfectly
supportive oak. Lees aging adds a very subtle yeasty component. Soft and slightly viscous in the
mouth with a juicy finish. One of Oregon’s best examples of this varietal.
MacRostie Winery & Vineyards Steve MacRostie has been making highly praised Chardonnays since
1974 when he became the inaugural winemaker for Sonoma County’s Hacienda Winery. Today he works in
partnership with winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen. The Chardonnays are typically fermented with proprietary yeasts and bacteria, and aged in 20% new French oak barrels.
2013 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 32,000 cases, $25, screwcap. A blend of
grapes from multiple vineyards in the Sonoma Coast appellation. Full malolactic fermentation. 85% of
the wine was aged in French oak barrels (20% new) for 6 months on the lees with occasional stirring,
and 15% of the wine was aged in stainless steel.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass.
Lovely aromas of ripe peach, Asian pear and lemon wafer. Bright, crisp and clean flavors of lemonlime
with a lasting finish driven by citrus tang. Beautifully crafted with just a hint of oak adding
2013 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 521 cases, $32, screwcap. More
than 70% of the grapes come from Matthew’s Station Vineyard planted by the Knude family and
farmed today by the Dutton family. Robert Young clone. Some grapes from Mirabel and Wohler
vineyards are mixed in. Harvest Brix 23.2º-24.5º. Whole cluster pressed, 85% malolactic
fermentation. Aged 9 months on the lees in 100% French oak barrels, 18% new.
Light golden yellow
color in the glass. Inviting aromas of lemon oil, lemongrass and buttered brioche. Good fullness of
citrus and pear flavor, yet vibrant, with a crisp and refreshing finish. A style that really satisfies.
2013 MacRostie Sangiacomo Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
14.6% alc., 291 cases, $44, screwcap.
Vineyard is located in southern Sonoma Valley and planted on silty clay loam soils. Steve has worked with
grapes from this vineyard since his first vintage at MacRostie in 1987. Harvest Brix 24.5º. Whole cluster
pressed. Barrel fermented in about 17% new French oak barrels and aged on the lees for 10 months. 100%
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of grilled lemon, brioche and
caramel lead to a deliciously rich core of fresh citrus fruits including lemon and grapefruit. Very round with
sound acidity, and inviting extract on the finish which has the slightest bit of warmth.
2013 Patz & Hall Hudson Vineyard Napa Carneros Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 375 cases, $55. Released March
2015. Vineyard established by grower and horticulturist Lee
Hudson in the 1980s. Sourced since 2005 from the same block
that Hudson uses for own Chardonnay. Hudson-Wente
selection (isolated by Lee Hudson). Whole cluster pressed,
indigenous yeast fermentation, aged in 100% French oak
barrels, 50% new, sur lie, with weekly stirring. 100% malolactic
fermentation in barrel. Unfiltered.
Light golden yellow color in the glass.
The nose is flat-out gorgeous, featuring hi-tone aromas of fresh lemon,
pear and buttery brioche. Apple, citrus, pear and honey flavors arrive
with aplomb leaving behind a vibrant citrus note on the bright and
engaging finish. This is serious, classy juice that is refined, seamless,
and nearly perfect in every way. WOW!
2013 Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $44. Released November
2014. This wine is made from some of the oldest Chardonnay plantings in western Sonoma County (first
planted in 1969). A blend of California heritage clones and selections: Robert Young, Rued, Hyde-Wente, UCD
4 and Spring Mountain. Mostly dry-farmed. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast fermentation, aged in
100% French oak barrels, 38% new, sur lie, with weekly stirring. 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel.
golden yellow color in the glass. Very inviting aromas of yellow peach, almond spread and lemon curd.
Appealing richness and softness on the palate with lip-smacking flavors of yellow peach, lemon pie, and honey.
Affable harmony, with good length on a finish that features a refreshing lemony, saline note.
2012 Ramey Hyde Vineyard Napa Carneros Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 1,212 cases, $65. Released February 2015.
Primarily Old Wente with some Robert Young field selections
planted in 1991 and 1997. Harvest Brix 22.9º average. Whole
cluster pressed, native yeast fermentation, full native malolactic
fermentation in barrel with sur lies batonnâge. Aged 18 months
in ! new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Fined and
Light golden yellow color in the glass. A
superb wine with bright aromas of lemon, grilled peach, brioche, and
steely resolve. Intensely flavored, yet crisp and lively on the palate, with
tastes of lemon, pineapple, peach, vanilla, caramel and spice.
Beautifully composed and balanced, and a delight to drink. Hyde fruit is
pretty much a guarantee of stunning Chardonnay.
2013 Rexford Antle Vineyard Chalone Pinot Blanc
13.7% alc., 119
cases, $28, screwcap. Rocky soils laden with limestone. This 25-acre
vineyard was planted in 1989 by legendary winegrower Dick Graff and is
farmed organically today. It is one of the few places in California where
authentic Pinot Blanc is grown. Harvest Brix 22.5º. Crushed and destemmed,
then pressed immediately. Barrel fermented on the lees in
100% French oak barrels, 20% new.
Light golden yellow color in the
glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of pear, peach, pineapple and
honey. Soft and smooth in the mouth, with impressive intensity of flavor,
including tastes of lemon, peach, yellow apple and cake spice. A
thoroughly enjoyable wine, with impeccable balance, and unusual
expression for Pinot Blanc. This wine brings back memories of the Pinot
Blancs I treasured from Chalone many years ago. I don’t think there is an
equal to this special varietal bottling currently produced in California.
2013 Sojourn Campbell Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.58, 175
cases, $45. Young and old vines planted to Old Wente clone. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with
native yeasts, 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in 20% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined.
golden yellow color in the glass. The charming nose is alive with scents of lemon cake, brioche and dried
mango. Seamless on the palate, with inviting richness of lemon, grapefruit and white peach flavors that lead to
a lively, crisp finish that begs another sip. Best Chardonnay yet from Sojourn.
Sonoma Collection California is divided into 17 different grape growing districts. The Sonoma Collection
highlights wines of District 3. The owners are Ned Hill, the owner of La Prenda Vineyards Management in
Sonoma County and Matt Stornetta who is his operations manager. La Prenda manages 900 acres of land in
Sonoma County. In 2013, Ned and Matt released their own wines from vineyards they manage. The bargain
priced wines are called District 3. The consulting winemaker is Alex Beloz, previously at MacRostie Winery.
2013 Sonoma Collection Sonoma County District 3 Growers Reserve Sonoma County Chardonnay
alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.65, $18.99, screwcap. An un-oaked
Chardonnay produced from grapes picked at lower Brix.
Whole cluster pressed, fermented cold in stainless steel. Aged
on lees with no malolactic fermentation.
Light golden yellow
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of lemon wafer,
pear and ocean air. Crisp, clean and very likable, with flavors of lemon-lime,
pear, green apple, and a hint of tropical fruits typical of Malvasia
Bianca. Classically styled and nicely balanced, this wine is enjoyable on
its own but will make a rewarding food companion. A terrific value.
Talbott Vineyards Winemaker Dan Karlsen works with one of California’s iconic Chardonnay vineyards:
Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. In the past 7 years, 40% of the vineyard has
been replanted with closer spacing, a switch to vertical shoot positioning, and the establishment of clonal
material that works best on this site. All grapes are kept in-house. The different bottlings are defined by vine
age, clone, block and other vineyard-driven factors. Other than small adjustments in aging time and amount of
new oak, the wines are vinified in the same fashion so what you taste is what the vineyard provided.
2013 Talbott Kali Hart Monterey Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.56, $20, screwcap. Released
December 1, 2014. 15% racked to French oak barrels (5% new) and aged 9 months
sur lie. Moderate golden
yellow color in the glass. Shy aromas of lemon, grapefruit, and lemongrass. A refined offering that is quite
refreshing, with bright citrus flavors that bring a tang to the finish. Rather demure on the attack and finish, but
2013 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.7% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.68, $42, screwcap. Released
April 1, 2015. Estate grown in sand and gravelly soils with marine
influences. The wine was made almost entirely from Old Wente clone
grapes planted in 1972 from the prized South Block. Aged 10 months sur
lie in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light golden straw
color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasing aromas of apple, grilled
peach, and lemon cream pie. Very enticing on the palate with a
somewhat creamy texture, and layers of flavor including yellow apple,
peach, honey, and nutty toffee. Nicely balanced with a welcome mantle
of subtle oak. The texture of this wine is very flattering.
2013 Three Sticks Origin Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.66, 409 cases,
$48. 28-day fermentation in concrete egg. Malolactic fermentation prohibited. Aged in stainless steel barrels for
Moderate golden yellow color with a hint of copper in the glass. Complex array of scents including
grilled lemon and pineapple, pear and honey. Bright flavors of grilled citrus, melon and pear in a rich, ripe, and
intensely fruity style that is not bashful. A good cut of acidity on the finish counters the fruit load. Some will
embrace the exuberance but I find it somewhat flaunting.
2013 Three Sticks One Sky Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay
14.8% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.64, 274 cases, $50.
Old Wente selection. 23-day fermentation in French oak barrels. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 15
months sur lie with batonnage in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderately dark golden straw color in
the glass. Clean aromas of citrus, pear and white peach with an earthy note. Rich and ripe-fruited, with flavors
of lemon, burnt toffee, banana, caramel and honey. Somewhat intriguing but atypical, with an intensely fruity
finish that lacks a little verve along with a bit too much oak at play for my taste. That said, there are fans of this
style of Chardonnay.
2012 Wedell Cellars Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.68,
90 cases, $50. Harvest Brix 24.6º. Whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented. 100% malolactic fermentation.
Aged sur lie with batonnage in 100% French oak barrels, 25% new. Unfined and unfiltered. Bottle aged 10
months before release.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lychee, starfruit, grilled peach
and brioche. Soft and creamy on the palate, with ripe flavors of white peach, lemon curd, caramel and crème
brûlèe, along with a touch of toffee and toast. A somewhat rich, lush and fruity style with oak complements
and soft acidity, but showing off impressive polish and some lemon-infused finishing interest. Tasted twice (one
bottle was mildly oxidized: score based on best bottle).
2012 Wedell Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.74, 90 cases, $70. Unnamed
vineyard. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast barrel fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged sur
lie for 20 months, with batonnage twice monthly during the first 12 months. Unfined and unfiltered.
yellow color with a tinge of orange in the glass. Aromas of cooked fruit, lemon oil, cream and roasted nuts.
Moderately rich, with a core of melon, ripe peach, lemon, blood orange and honey flavors, finishing on a
soprano note with lemon-driven acidity. The wine has a very ripe, slightly roasted tone. Tasted twice (one bottle
was oxidized: score based on best bottle).
2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.9% alc., $16. Colmar clone
planted in Jory and Missoula Flood soils. Harvest Brix 22.6º-24.7º. Cluster-thinned vines, whole
cluster pressed, fermented cold in stainless steel on the primary lees with stirring twice a month.
pink color in the glass. Aromas of cut apple, peach and yeast lead to a moderately rich palate of apple
and pineapple fruits. Slightly creamy, with good balance, and some finishing fruit. A solid food wine.