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!”

About the Wine: The J. Cage Cellars 2017 La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay is made from 100% Clone 4 Chardonnay grapes harvested from the La Cruz Vineyard, located in the Sonoma Coast AVA in Sonoma, California. The vineyard is owned by the Keller family, also known for their eponymous winery Keller Estate, located in Petaluma, California. The vineyard is located 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean, nestled in the eastern corner of the Petaluma Gap. Which means, I believe, that this wine can now claim the newly appointed Petaluma Gap AVA.

The wine was aged in 100% French oak barrels (20% new) and underwent regular hand-stirring
of the lees during fermentation. The Chardonnay did undergo secondary, malolactic fermentation. I will re-quote Beery’s thoughts on ML here:

“ML has its place to improve mouth-feel, add complexity and round off sharp edges…but too much of a good thing…is too much.”

Indeed.

14% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the J. Cage Cellars 2017 La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay to find aromas of apples, peaches, and the scent of warm dewy grass on a summer morning. This Chardonnay presents a near clear Champagne hue on the pour, settling into the glass with a delicate pale, but luminescent, straw color. Note: this wine is immediately aromatic.

Initial aromas are of pear, apple, persimmon, daisies, dew, and just the slightest hint of lactic acid. Swirl, and allow the floral aromas to become alive: daisies, chamomile, baby’s breath. And still, there is that over-arching scent of pomme and stone fruits.

The palate of the J. Cage Cellars 2017 La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay is soft, thin, with working acidic and textural components that add depth. It is light to medium bodied, with just a gentle cotton-like coat on the tongue. The finish is pleasantly warm. Dominant flavors are of soft nuts (like raw cashews or maybe pinenuts), chamomile, pear, under-ripe persimmons, a hint of white nectarine, a back-breath of damp, warm grass.

Food Pairing: I paired the J. Cage Cellars 2017 La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay with a grilled chicken breast alongside roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts, garnished with crainins and salted pistachio nuts. Between the sweetness of the squash, the bitterness of the sprouts, and gameyness of the bird, the meal brought out a kind of earthy component to the wine, highlighting the florals but also showcasing a bit of minerality that wasn’t present when tasting the wine on its own. Meanwhile, the soft, textural mouthfeel paired perfectly with the overall heartiness and harvest warmth of the dish.

More Info: More Info: I received the J. Cage Cellars 2017 La Cruz Vineyard Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Roger!) Price: $35 For more information about J. Cage, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the J. Cage Cellars website.


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