2015 Arnot-Roberts, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Arnot-Roberts Wines is a two man team of schoolboy friends, Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, who since founding their label back in 2001, have become one of California’s hottest wineries making soulful old world inspired wines. In recent years Duncan and Nathan have teamed up with Richard Alfaro to get some old vine Trout Gulch Chardonnay grapes for a small lots bottling, and in 2015 there were 19 barrels made of this 13.5% natural alcohol, crisply white. Known for their high toned style and delicately detailed wines, Arnot-Robert’s winemaking methods are firmly traditional with generous use of whole clusters, natural fermentations, with a very limited use of new oak, which is only used in their Cabernet Sauvignons, and modest alcohol levels, and in this case making a very Chablis like version of Chardonnay that is surprisingly brisk given the warm year and concentration of flavors, in fact I would have never guessed it was over 12.5% such is the vibrancy and citrusy notes.
This Chardonnay was fermented in stainless steel, with native yeast when possible and then aged in neutral wood, all French oak, they add that they give a nod to the masters, Domaines Dauvissat and Raveneau, both Chablis legends. The winery adds, the Trout Gulch vineyard, which sits at close to 800 feet above sea level, near the tiny town of Aptos, 10 minutes south of Santa Cruz itself and about 4 miles from the ocean in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The site was originally planted in 1980 to the old Wente clone Chardonnay, that is considered by many to be the best heritage version of Chardonnay in California.The soils here, in this cool climate site, are sandy loam with a touch of clay like dirt, with this unique hillside surrounded by tall redwoods, all carefully tended by Richard Alfaro, one of the best growers in the region.
Per Arnot-Roberts, Alfaro uses organic methods in this dry farmed site with 35 year old Old Wente clone Chardonnay vines and the grapes were picked at about 21 brix, hence the severely brisk nature of this wine, it was as mentioned above, whole cluster pressed, allowing native yeast fermentation in stainless steel vats, then raised for 10 months in that neutral French oak, which again is similar to Premier Cru Chablis, which gives this lovely Chard it’s Burgundy like personality and mineral driven presence in the glass. This vintage is lightly golden with a pale greenish hue and the medium bodied palate shows invigorating lemon, white peach and green apple, before adding Asian pear and fig fruits with air, along with loamy earth, wet river stones, a hint of clove, unsweetened honey and lime/white flowers blossoms. The Acidity and vivid detail keeps impressing even after half hour, this Chardonnay has a developed sense of maturity, extract and smooth textures, but still wonderfully vibrant with a fine tension and intensity, hinting to a long life ahead if you were still holding a bottle or so.
The 2015 will be a tough get at this point, but their 2016 and 2017 should be every bit as good, and it the case of the upcoming 2017, it could be even better, keep an eye out for it, and get on the Arnot-Roberts list. This stuff is fabulous, and soon they should be releasing their awesome Touriga Nacional Rosé, one of my favorite pinks in California, plus be sure to grab their Gamay and rare Trousseau if you can! Arnot-Roberts also thrills with their awesome selection of Syrah(s), Pinot Noir(s) and as noted their Cabernet Sauvignon(s) are not to be missed either, all of their wines, especially this Trout Gulch Chardonnay, are world class offerings that really highlight single terroirs.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive