I love it when a wine exceeds expectations. The kind of wine that makes me want to make a trip up to Sonoma so I can just shake the winemaker’s hand. This is that wine. I knew when I picked up Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay that it would be good, drinkable, and most probably enjoyable. But I didn’t know that a simple regional Sonoma Coast Chardonnay would show all the depth of flavors that this one did. And it’s all because of the winemakers…well…winemaking. So, Cheers to you, Grech Stach!

Now because I said that, I must tell you a little bit about the winemaker and the winemaking process, no?

About the Wine: Greg Stach’s winemaking philosophy is to take a “hands-off” approach from vine to bottle, only intervening “to ensure consistency and quality.” So what that means for us, the consumer/drinker, is that we’re tasting more of that natural flavors of the grapes — everything from stem to juice, and even natural by-products (aka: yeast).

Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from various vineyards throughout Sonoma County. The grapes were aged and fermented for 10 months, sur-lie (with its native yeasts), in French oak (33% new) during which time it was only stirred twice per month.

14.3% ABV

Flavor Profile: The wine is a strong, confident yellow in the glass emitting beautiful aromas of lemon-meringue pie: a bit of citrus accompanied by the calming essence of vanilla cream, toasted pastry, and just the slightest hint of nutmeg. On the palate is where this wine truly stand out. The initial taste will talk to you about soft, stone fruits: apricots, perhaps a bit of papaya, with just a twist of lemon zest for interest. But the acidity is quite low, giving the Chardonnay a calming, low-toned mouthfeel. And just about mid-palate you’ll get…this flavor…this feeling…this funk that’ll ride right up your nose. And you should know that I mean this in a good way. It’s this question mark of, “what is this that I’m tasting?” It will give you pause to think because just when you thought you were drinking a run-of-the-mill Chard, you get this funk. And it speaks of an old, dank wine cave — dark, mysterious, intriguing. It’s something I’ve only experienced in the best, unfiltered white Rhones.

And I’ll tell you right now, that’s the natural fermentation. Yeast-y-ness at its best. No it doesn’t taste like bread or beer, it just adds that extra level of intensity to the wine and takes you out of your element and into the place where real wine is crafted: that dark, dank cave. You think a grape dies the moment it’s plucked? Well then this is the second coming — natural cultures are born and thrive and work with the wine in that barrel to create something…something that lets you know that wine can’t just be science, it has to be soul.

Food Pairing: So what to pair with this amazingness? Landmark recommends lemon and garlic chicken with mushrooms. And i totally get that: pull that citrus out with some lemon, let the texture of a beautifully baked or boiled chicken compliment the round textures of the wine, and let a good funky-fungus play with that schtank of the fermentation.

When I had the Landmark Overlook Chardonnay, I had a beautifully grilled sword fish, which is similar in texture (and taste) to chicken. I accompanied this with some steamed white rice, which definitely complimented the softness in the wine, and topped it all with a mild mango salsa (no spice or jalepeños here — simply mango, sweet onion, finely diced red bell pepper, and cilantro for freshness), which pulled out the stone fruit flavors nicely. Serve with a squeeze of lemon if you want to play with the bit of citrus in the wine as well.

Perfect pairing? For me, yes, but I’d also be willing to experiment with this wine to pay more homage to the earthy undertones, and that lingering, ferment-y stink that just lasts from mid palate through to the lengthy finish.

More Info: This was my first experience with Landmark and I must say I will be coming back to them again and again. I mean, if this is what they do with their regional wines, I can only imagine what their single vineyard offerings taste like. Plus they specialize in my two favorite varietals — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (…yes, I am such the Sonoma County Cali-girl…).

I was able to find Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay at a local retailer (Price: $17.99). For more information about Landmark and to purchase their wines directly, please do visit the Landmark Wine website.

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