Flora Springs 2016 Estate Chardonnay

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.

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Hahn SLH 2015 Chardonnay

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…

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Chardonnay: Winemakers’ Play-Doh

Chardonnay — the decision of whether or not it’s one of your go-to varietals or if you’ve opted into the ABC club (Anything But Chard), is based on a certain stereotype. Oaky? (over-oaked?) Buttery? (butter-bomb?) Popcorn? (is that a good thing?) But the truth is that this green-skinned grape provides a whole spectrum of flavor profiles determined, predominantly, by the winemaker. But let’s back up a bit and learn a bit more about this (too?) popular varietal.

Photo Courtesy of wine-searcher.com

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Y. Rousseau 2016 Rosé of Tannat

“I like rosés with lower alcohol and more freshness,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker of Y.Rousseau Wines. “Of course,” he adds, “being made from 100% Tannat, the wine has a lot of structure and backbone, and so can actually be a great alternative to some lighter reds on warm summer days.” Perfect. Personally, I’m always looking for a rosé with some life to it. Something that, at a cooler temp, is perfect as an aperitif, but can last the whole evening with flavors and textures that amplify as it comes to room temp. With Y. Rousseau’s Rosé of Tannat you can actually rosé pretty much all day…

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Troon Vineyard 2014 Malbec-Tannat Reserve

Troon Vineyard may have a 40 year old winemaking history, but they seem to be on the cusp of what’s new and innovative in winemaking. Not out to make the fast, easy sell, they embrace what their little piece of Oregon terroir has to offer — climate and terrain similar to the Old World France and Spain, and yet still uniquely Oregonian. That means their focus is on under-appreciated grapes: Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, simply because this is what grows best. (Learn more about Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley)

As Craig Camp says, “If you want to bring real pleasure to peoples lives, your wines have to have personalities as interesting as the people that drink them.” (You can read more of Craig’s thoughts on Troon Vineyard’s Wine Camp Blog.)

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