I’m walking down the wine aisle of my local Safeway, filling up that six-pack wine crate so I can get my awesome bulk-buy discount. Who do I run in to? Ken Moholt-Siebert — owner of Ancient Oak Cellars. I originally met Ken at SF Pinot Days where I tasted two very different Pinots, both of which were noteworthy (in fact, I encourage you to read my notes).

So knowing the love they put into their Pinots, I was quite curious to try Ancient Oak’s Chardonnay. Ok, this wine is so special, even those lame Safeway-provided dixie cups couldn’t hide the depth and complexity of flavors. I had to buy a bottle — and I’m not going to lie, I drank it that night…

About the Wine: Ancient Oak Cellars carries on an over 80-year old family farming tradition. Owner and winemaker Ken Mohold-Siebert grew up on his vineyard back when it was his grandfather’s modest sheep farm. Today, Ken, along with his wife Melissa, his team, and, yes, a few sheep, maintain a sustainable vineyard that produces critically-acclaimed wines.

Ancient Oak 2013 Chardonnay is a part of the winery’s Appellation Series, meaning the grapes are taken from several partnering vineyards (as opposed to a single vineyard) along the Russian River Valley.

This Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, 14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: This medium yellow wine has a strong, immediate aroma of a fresh apple orchard — as in you predominantly sense the apples, but you can also smell a bit of leafy herbs and a bit of earth along with it. There’s also the slightest hint of fresh citrus on the nose as well — which makes your brain think the wine will be a crispier Chardonnay with little or no oak.

On the contrary — this wine is quite soft and supple on the tongue when you first take a sip. Let the wine linger on the palate for a bit and you’ll get that apple flavor along with a smooth hint of caramel, and a hint of toast. Background flavors include a little herb and citrus. Once swallowed, the wine lingers, lingers, lingers. The acid (perhaps a bit of tannins as well?) make the tastebuds come alive with an aftertaste that’s almost…spicy!

It’s that surprising lingering effect that truly captured my attention.

Food Pairing: You could certainly sip and savor this wine on its own, but I think it’s more fun to play with all those flavors along with a food pairing. I enjoyed the 2013 Ancient Oaks Chardonnay with a very simple dish — grilled salmon and salad — so I could savor the flavor of the wine. The texture and natural oils of the salmon paralleled nicely alongside the smooth, creaminess of the wine. An herb-based salad brought out the hidden vegetation in both the aroma and taste of the Chardonnay, while sweet cherry tomatoes balanced the wine’s spice and acidity.

For those who are a little more adventurous, I’d suggest pairing this something with a little kick — I’m thinking a spice-filled Asian dish here.

Either way, I know I’ll be buying this Chardonnay again and playing with the different flavor profiles the wine has to offer.

More Info: Like I said, I was lucky enough to be at Safeway on the right day and found the 2013 Ancient Oaks Chardonnay there (Sale Price: $23.99). For more information about Ancient Oaks and to purchase their wines directly, please visit their site.

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