2018 Samuel Louis Smith, Chardonnay, Spear Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The absolutely gorgeous Spear Vineyard Chardonnay from Sam Smith, an upcoming release under his Samuel Louis Smith label, is one of the best Chardonnay wines in California, up there with the very best and it’s a steal for the price, this is a vintage for the ages in the Central Coast and this wine certainly looks like a legend in the making! This is an epic wine from a vineyard that is fast becoming a California Grand Cru, Spear is an amazing site on the north end of the Sta. Rita Hills getting plenty of effects from cool sea breezes and Pacific Ocean influenced climate that allows perfect ripening and retention of natural acidity that leads to complexity and concentration, as this fantastic wine clearly shows. The Spear Vineyard is a family owned, sustainable and certified organic vineyard, farmed by Ofer Shepher, who as he notes, is solely focused on the Santa Rita Hills appellation and is an inspirational figure in the region and admired for his passion and commitment in making wine and growing grapes that taste of the place where made and grown. Spear is set on clay based soils and is planted to a blend of clones including clone 4, clone 96 and the heritage old Wente clone, which Sam put just 4 and 96 in his 2018 version, which shows in the fruit vitality, mineral tones and thrilling energy. Sam Smith has been getting a lot of media attention for his wines, both from his own label and for his sublime work as head winemaker for Dan Lee at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, where he has really raised the game and the latest Double L Estate stuff is outstanding, especially he is showing an exceptional gift with Chardonnay, though his Pinots are all stellar efforts too.
When asked about his approach, Sam Smith says he really wanted to show this vineyard lots of love and allow the terroir to be its main character, and his without question, nailed it! He went with a whole cluster pressing and native yeast barrel fermentation with 50% allowed to finish malo-lactic with 20% new French oak. Smith, who wanted to preserve the fresh detail, but still wanted palate impact aged this beauty for 9 months before bottling. Still dynamic and youthful, this wildly expressive Chardonnay shows a unique personality, and like the prior vintage has an incredible almost Hermitage meets Condrieu element at its heart with honeysuckle/white flowers, powerful, almost oily mouthfeel with hints of wild apricot fleshiness to along with classic Chardonnay apple and pear fruits. Those that love the exotic orange chiffon and marmalade of Kongsgaard Chards with love this latest Samuel Louis Smith Spear Vineyard Chardonnay which adds wet stone, subtle tropical essences, bright meyer lemon, a touch of clarified cream, clove spice, quince and delicate leesy notes and well judged toasty oak. When given some time in the glass this golden/green tinted pale Chardonnay really thrills the palate with a sexy textural feel and it lingers on and on, it is also blessed with a zippy acidity and an underlying saline briskness, it will fill out over time and it will be stunning with lobster, sweet crab and grilled salmon or swordfish dishes. This is another new and emerging talent to to follow and I highly recommend getting on his email list and not miss this stunning wine.
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive