If there’s anything we know about Chardonnay, it’s that it is highly adaptable to its environment. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Oregon—heck even Canada—all have areas that produce premium Chardonnays. Yet all are so distinctly different, all so uniquely dependent on both environmental (soil, climate, altitude and latitude) and human factors (grape grower, winemaker).
In California, Chardonnay is our most-planted white wine grape variety. It’s produced all over the state and, given the size of the state and the amount of wine producers, it can be expressed in a number of different styles. Today I’m zeroing in on three specific AVAs: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley—all part of the Northern Sonoma AVA in Sonoma County, Calif.
On Wednesday I proposed that the tasting portion of the WSET D3 exam is still a theory exam. I threw a couple of made-up theory questions based on your dry tasting notes (my experiential tasting notes) to put that into practice. (Read WSET Diploma Tasting—Burgundy’s Chardonnay Spectrum for the original inquiry and my full tasting notes.)
I got some great feedback on how to tackle those questions. Based on my notes and yours, I’ve put together some bullet points on what to cover in the theory portion. If you have additional thoughts or notes you want to add to this post—you know how to reach me. Cheers
A few weeks ago I participated in a virtual “getaway” to Bourgogne. My tour and tasting was lead by the always energetic award-winning sommelier and “virtual experience guru” Belinda Chang, along with expert Bourgogne consultant Anette Hanami. We also had a few guest speakers native to the region, including Anne Moreau from the Domaine Louis Moreau.
Of course, a virtual media tour is nothing like the real deal. But the event, hosted by Sopexa, was not just a lively discussion on Bourgogne as a whole, but a detailed breakdown of region’s nuanced classification system.
To discuss everything we learned would take several lengthy posts. So, I’m not going to do that. But what I do want to share are the two wines I received in conjunction with this event. In order to divide Bourgogne into digestible parts, we were split into “teams,” each of which focused on a separate region. I, along with three other women in wine, was on team Hautes Côtes de Beaune. The following two wines are just a small sip of what I experienced during Soprexa‘s “Escape to Bourgogne.”
I recently received three new releases from a winery I’d not heard of. Interesting factoid: Ron Rubin Brands includes The Republic of Tea. According to the company website, Rubin—who was already a veteran in the beverage industry—”The Republic of Tea, a book about the story and philosophy behind the groundbreaking tea company. Rubin was so inspired, and made an offer to the Ziegler’s and Bill Rosenzweig to purchase The Republic of Tea. Since then, Rubin has been on a mission to seek and procure the most exquisite teas from world premier tea gardens, making them accessible to everyone.” You can read more of Rubin’s story here.
When it comes to winegrowing and winemaking, the estate vineyards are located in Green Valley—a sub-AVA of California’s Russian River Valley. So, no surprise, then, that the wines I received were two styles of Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.
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.