When it comes to modern California Chardonnay, it seems more grapegrowers are focused in on purposeful planting, winemakers taking a more “hands-off” approach in the winery. Thus the nuances of the actual fruit are able to come forward, unmasked by excessive ML or NFO aging. Tasting the J. Cage Cellars 2016 Schmidt Home Vineyard is one such Chardonnay that piqued my interest into the current California expressions of the grape. So when owner Roger Beery asked if I’d like to taste his most recent release, my answer was an enthusiastic “yes please!”
I’m continuing an exploration of J. Cage Cellars, a small family-run winery in the heart of Sonoma. For a boutique operation, they have a well-rounded portfolio, work with some prestigious vineyards, and produces wines that could easily compete with “better known” names in the wine world. The Beery’s are, in fact, craftsman—and what better way to show off ones winemaking skills than with the art of the blend…
I’ve been having a hard time with Chardonnay lately. I’ve been finding them too overworked: either over-oaked or incorporating too much malolactic fermentation — in the worst cases both. I don’t like to start off a post with a negative, but you have to understand where I’m coming from. The Chardonnay’s of late have left me wondering — what does Chardonnay actually taste like? What is its entity? What is its innate nature? Ok, I’ll go there…where is its soul?
I found it. Here. With this wine. This is the Chardonnay I’ve been looking for. This is the pretty much the Chardonnay I want to always be in my cellar.
After experiencing the van der Kamp Pinot Noir I was excited to try J. Cage’s expression of the same varietal from a different vineyard. In conversing with proprietor Roger Beery, he said, “Single vineyards should be the lead singer..not the winemaker.” True, very true. A good winemaker lets the vineyard tell the story. And it’s amazing tasting the two so close together how one can taste, not a winemaking style, but the disparate style of two different pieces of Sonoma. “Let these outstanding vineyards and winegrowers have a voice,” Beery said. And so they do.
I feel like I’ve been presenting a lot of rosés lately. I guess it’s the season for it. And what I’m discovering as I taste through all these rosés is that, in the right hands, rosé is not a drink for a season, but can be as timeless as even the finest reds. Of course the French figured this out long ago, and California, we seem to be headed in the right direction.
Conch Beery, winemaker and cellar master for J. Cage Cellars says “As a winemaker, it is my duty to create wines that are true to place, true to the soil, true to the climate, and true to the spirit of the growers. My goal is to translate the magic of each vineyard into every glass of wine.” And it’s evident he gives just as much care and attention to his rosé as he does with any other of his single vineyard, single varietal wines.