I decided to play a fun game with myself. Having received the newest Chardonnay releases from Talley Vineyards, each of which highlights a separate vineyard in California’s Central Coast, I wanted to see if I could taste the difference between each. The short answer to that question: yes, yes I can.
This post is entitled ChardonNay or ChardonYay because, in case you haven’t picked up from previous posts, I personally have a hard time with the variety. Chardonnay is like putty in a winemaker’s hands—it will mold or melt, form or fragment depending on how much he or she wants to “do” with it. It easily picks up on oak barrel spices; delivers the toast and bread-y notes from lees aging; and if ever there was a variety that can speak to the aromas and flavors from malolactic conversion, it is Chardonnay. Indeed, the grape can be easily manipulated and, oft times (especially in the new world), over-worked.
So, I was not only curious if I could taste the difference between the various vineyards, I was curious if I’d have a preference between them. The short answer to that question: yes, yes I did.
Winemake Bret Urness is a boots-in-the-dirt kind of winemaker and his wines speak to that. Sourcing from some of the best vineyards along the Central Coast (Ballard Canyon, Solpman, Duvarita anyone?, this guy makes some of the most earthy (but elegant) Rhone wines I’ve tasted — and yes that goes for the white wines as well.
I don’t know what made me stop in Tin City on a drive through the Central Coast. And I can’t say why, in particular, I walked into Bret’s urban tasting room. But I do know I’m glad I did and reliving that visit via this wine reminded me why I came away with a couple of bottles.
I’ve followed winemaker Janu Goelz for quite some time—admittedly mostly on social media. What I immediately recognized was a young woman passionate about building her brand and business. Located on the outskirts of San Jose in Gilroy, California, Alara Cellars is one of a handful of boutique wineries in the Santa Clara Valley. Most folks forget about this piece of California wine country, and I love how she embraces it, pouring her wines at both local Silicon Valley hangouts and, now, at regional shows and competitions.
Oh how her brand has grown into such a success.
After interviewing her for a feature in our magazine, I finally got to meet her a few weeks ago at my company’s annual Bottle Bash party during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. She is just as friendly and delightful as her wines suggest. So I feel privileged to review one of her wines here on my humble little website.
I’ve been having such fun experimenting with new releases of California Chardonnay. I feel like the modern expressions of the grape has come to vary so widely that gone are the days of this white wine’s stereotypes — the new norm is the ab-norm. And while this Chardonnay does reflect those “classic” characteristics, and may not be to everyone’s palate, it does have a fresh take on an old look and certainly has its time and place when paired with the proper meal.
This was my first experience with Scheid Vineyards—a winery I’ve heard a lot about and isn’t far from my home base. When I had the opportunity to interview Dave Nagengast, director of winemaking for Scheid, for an article in Wines & Vines December/January Collector’s Edition, I was intrigued by the innovative spirit of the winey, and my interest piqued even further. Luckily (and completely coincidentally), I was contacted by the winery’s PR rep about sampling the wines. That would be an enthusiastic yes…