Wine reviews, pairings, events, and getaways
If given the chance to taste a single vineyard bottling of Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir or Chardonnay — take it. Located just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean along the Sonoma Coast, this 31-acre vineyard is one of the coolest grape-growing sites within the whole AVA. Sitting at about 800 feet in elevation on a south-facing slope, above morning fog level, the land receives maritime air from both the ocean and the Estero Americano — a “fjord-like” funnel that moves marine air through the Petaluma gap and toward the Sacramento delta. The result of this constantly cool climate: small crops with intense fruit flavors, strong levels of acidity, and lower sugar levels.
The vineyard itself is owned by Flanagan Wines, but they source out the fruit to other major players like Radio-Coteau, Littorai, and, of course Ramey.
I got married at Testarossa because, at the end of the day, they have amazing wines. Their specialties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the smoothness of the Pinot Noir coupled with the richness of their Chardonnays is enough for any bride to leave the alter for the tasting table. I’ve been an on-again, off-again club member for the past 4 years and have tasted almost all of their single-vineyard bottlings for each varietal. The winery sources from both the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey AVAs from some of the most historically exclusive vineyards. That being said, their wines come at a (well-worth-it) cost. So I was surprised to find out that they actually have a, shall we say, more consumer-friendly option out there. Available at local grocery stores, this Testarossa Cuvée Chardonnay takes out a bit of the prim and poise while maintaining all the elegance in this well-balanced, easy drinker.
You may know the Balletto name well — it’s no stranger to the eye-level shelves at the local supermarket. But did you know that the Balletto family is a bit of a Sonoma success story? It all started when John Balletto left his budding college career behind to help his mother run the family’s 5-acre farm, following the unforeseen death of his uncle. Throughout the 80s and 90s, John focused on expanding the family business, purchasing additional parcels of land until the Balletto farm consisted of 700-plus acres planted to over 70 different vegetables. But when drought and other acts of nature threatened the farm, Balletto decided to focus his sights on grapes — a slightly less thirsty plant. Because of encouragement from friend and neighbor Warren Dutton (of Dutton-Goldfield Winery), the family already had 35 acres planted to vines and subsequently continued to convert all their vegetable-designated land to estate vineyards — primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (more…)
John and Carrie Komes and Julie and Pat Garvey established Flora Springs in 1977, though the vineyard has history dating back to the early 1800s, when Napa was just forming its roots as a California wine region. So the families already had a jump start on success by purchasing fertile land perfect for crafting what they’d soon be known for — Bordeaux blends. But John Komes admittedly has had a “long love affair” with Chardonnay and it was, in fact, the first Flora Springs varietal he produced 40 years ago. And though he’s seen Chardonnay styles go in and out of fashion — from the classic Cali butter-bomb to the sometimes scandalous 100% stainless steel — current winemaker Paul Steinauer maintains the winemaking methods that expresses Chardonnay in the same way that enraptured John from the very beginning.
The Santa Lucia Highlands can create some interesting wines — from almost meaty Pinot Noir, to downright angry Syrah. The Hahn SLH Chardonnay hails from higher elevation vineyards that reach, at top level, 1,200 feet and are planted atop sandy loam soils. Sitting neatly above the fog line and amongst the well-draining soil, the Chardonnay receives ample amount of sunlight and receive just enough water to force the vines to work. The result is good, fully ripened fruit bursting at the seams to become wine. But the expression in that wine, well, that depends on the winemaker…