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.
I’m continuing an exploration of J. Cage Cellars, a small family-run winery in the heart of Sonoma. For a boutique operation, they have a well-rounded portfolio, work with some prestigious vineyards, and produces wines that could easily compete with “better known” names in the wine world. The Beery’s are, in fact, craftsman—and what better way to show off ones winemaking skills than with the art of the blend…
I’ve only had Ferrari Carano twice in my wine drinking life. No joke. So, even though I love the Chardonnay as a daily drinker, and their GSM proved a beautiful date night addition, I really had no idea how special Ferrari Carano is until a friend insisted we visit while at last year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference. (Cheers Lori!) Well we each did a tasting and the line up was fab. Some of us bought several bottles, some of us just one. And the one bottle we all had in hand when walking out the door? This Ferrari Carano 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Benziger has a long-standing family reputation in Sonoma. The family made the migration to California’s northern wine country when it was still had its “wild west” status and together groomed the land to make some top quality wines. Since 2000, all four of Benziger’s estate vineyards have been officially certified Biodynamic, meaning they’ve eliminated the use of all synthetic materials, encourage biodiversity in the field, and nurture a closed nutrient system. The effects? Well let’s have a taste and see, shall we?
With the exception of sparkling wine producers, wineries that focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rarely play the blending game. But with Fort Ross Vineyard, there’s a not-so-secret third varietal that winemaker Jeff Pisoni gets to play with: Pinotage. While this ‘Symposium’ wine is labeled a Pinot Noir, there’s a little something extra blended in, giving the traditionally light, silky varietal, a hearty backbone and intense texture.