Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Send in the Clones...Chardonnay - Part 2...

Part 2 of the Chardonnay Symposium, where the Goddess of Wine and her trusty acolyte, JD, taste a whole lotta Chardonnay...

After a fascinating morning listening to winemakers discuss Chardonnay clones, we downed the tasty box lunch provided as part of the event (turkey sandwiches with an apple and a cookie - and plenty of water), and got on the bus for the trip to Byron Winery and the Grand Tasting. Once there, we picked up our tasting glasses and got started.

The wineries included Alta Maria ~ Au Bon Climat ~ Baileyana ~ Bien Nacido Vineyards ~ Bridlewood Estate Winery ~ Byron Winery ~ Cambria Winery ~ Chamisal Vineyards ~ Chanin Wine Company ~ Conway Family Wines/Deap Sea ~ Costa de Oro Winery ~ Cottonwood Canyon Winery ~ Deovlet Wines ~ Dierberg Vineyard ~ Eberle Winery ~ Edna Valley Vineyard ~ Falcone Family Vineyards ~ Fess Parker Winery ~ Fontes & Phillips Wines ~ Foxen ~ Gainey Vineyard ~ Hartford Family Winery ~ J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines ~ J. Wilkes Wines ~ Jonata ~ Ken Brown Wines ~ Kenneth Volk Vineyards ~ La Fenetre Wines ~ Laetitia Vineyard & Winery ~ Landmark Vineyards ~ Lucia’s Wine Co ~ Merry Edwards Winery ~ Migration from Duckhorn Wine Company ~ Niven Family Wine Estates ~ Old Town Market, Orcutt ~ Patz & Hall ~ Presqu’ile Winery ~ Qupé Wine Cellars ~ Rancho Sisquoc ~ Riverbench Vineyard & Winery ~ Rusack Vineyards ~ Sanford Winery ~ Sierra Madre Vineyard ~ Solomon Hills Vineyards ~ Talley Vineyards ~ Thomas Fogerty Winery & Vineyard ~ Toretti’s Family Vineyard ~ Wente Vineyards ~ William James Cellars

The restaurants, all of whom created special pairings to go with Chardonnay were Bello Forno Wood-Fired Cuisine ~ Central City Market ~ Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Foods ~ The Far Western Tavern (where we ate an amazing dinner later that evening) ~ The Garden Room at the Historic Santa Maria Inn ~ Jessica Foster Confections ~ Mountain Valley Spring Water ~ Pasion Comida Mexicana ~ Panera Bread ~ Testa’s Bistro & Catering ~ Trattoria Uliveto ~ Vintner’s Bar & Grill.

Due to my limited energy (this was only 2 weeks after surgery, after all!), I knew I wasn't going to be able to taste everything, so highlights of the tasting included:

Cottonwood Canyon presented a 2001 and two 2003 Chardonnays that were exceptional in their youth, fruitfulness and acidity. You may not be aware of this, but as wine ages, it changes color. Reds tend to turn orange and then amber or brown as they age, but Chardonnay becomes bright yellow - like pineapple juice! It can be daunting if you've never seen the color before.

Qupé's Bob Lindquist offered an extraordinary vertical going back to 1989. I have been a fan of Bob's for a long time, and his wines never fail to surprise and delight me.

Au Bon Climat - Jim Clendenen, is 'the mind behind' some of the greatest Chardonnays (and Pinot Noirs) from California.

Deovlet - New kid on the block, Ryan Deovlet, sources his fruit from the Solomon Hills and Zotovich Family vineyards, making lean and elegant Chards. I look forward to tasting his Pinot Noir as well.

Laetitia -I sometimes forget about Laetitia making wines other than sparkling (and I do love their sparklers), but they make some very tasty Chards, all from estate-grown fruit.

Patz & Hall - Owner Anne Moses poured three lovely Chards, two from Carneros and one from the Russian River Valley. Each wine was distinctive and different from the others. I was wowed by these wines.

Thomas Fogarty - This Santa Cruz Mountains winery offered three single-vineyard Chards, all crisp and food-friendly. Beautiful wines; I kept thinking about them the rest of the day.

Dierberg & Star Lane - Consistently deliver Chards with beautiful acidity and minerality in both their wooded (mainly neutral oak - large barrels) and steel wines, balanced with tasty tropical fruit.

Talley - Talley poured several lovely Chards, but my favorite was from Rosemary's Vineyard in the Arroyo Grande appellation. Lemony and floral aromas give way to a rich, creamy mouthfeel with a lingering minerality on the long finish. Lovely.

La Fenêtre - Saving my friend Josh Klapper for last, but definitely not least. I have been a big fan of Josh's winemaking for a long time. His Chards are complex and tasty. Best of all, he was hiding a bottle of his amazing Pinot Noir under the table, and that's what I finished my tasting with! Thanks, Josh (and business partner Alex Katz)!

There were so many more Chardonnays to taste, but I had to sit down at this point and drink a lot of water. JD was still tasting and may have some notes to add to this post later.

I want to add that the food offerings from the local restaurants were creatively designed to pair with Chardonnay, and provided good insights into how food and wine go hand-in-hand for a fully enjoyable experience.

Congratulations to all the wineries and restaurants, and thanks to Byron Winery for hosting a memorable event. Have I mentioned how much I like Byron wines? The wines from their historic Nielson Vineyard are complex, food friendly and very affordable. Cheers!

Byron Winery (photo from their website)

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