2020 Stars & Dust, Chardonnay, Old Vine, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.
Just 80 cases were made of this gorgeous Old Vine Bien Nacido Chardonnay by Stars & Dust which was crafted using 100% handpicked vineyard designate old vine Chardonnay grapes, picked in the middle of the night, with lower Brix to promote mineral and bright fruit intensity. It was fermented and aged 10 months in 25% (one) new Damy French oak with the remaining wine done in neutral barrels. The well rounded and full palate delivers a California richness of texture with the vitality and low alcohol you would expect from a fine Meursault or Corton-Charlemagne with fresh lemony tones and wet stones accenting classic golden apple, pear and white peach fruits at this brilliant wines core along with clove spice, lime blossom, kiwi, a hint of campfire marshmallow and creamy/toasty vanilla. At 12.4% natural alcohol and with bracing acidity in the background this elegant Chardonnay goes great with food, like baked salmon in pastry that I had it with, and should age nicely too. Winemaker Nikki Pallesen says that these 43 year old vines are not messing around and are true cellar gems, adding that she could not be more pleased, this is a magnificent effort. The Bien Nacido vineyard has diverse soils that add to the quality here, with limestone, shale, uplifted marine volcanics and loam all playing a part. This is a wine that should please a wide range a Chardonnay enthusiasts, especially those that enjoy Premier and Grand Chablis and the wines of some of Burgundy’s new generation of stars. The Stars & Dust Old Vine Chardonnay has that awesome contrast between opulent fruit density and electric acidity providing vivid clarity and endless excitement in the glass.

Nikki Pallesen’s, formerly of Liquid Farm, new label Stars & Dust founded in 2020, focusing on small production, Santa Barbara County wines, featuring what she calls mineral driven Rosés, Single Vineyard Old Vine Chardonnays and a few fun Reds is just releasing her two Chardonnays, this one her most prized bottling to date, sourced from the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and the Hilltop Vineyard which comes from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The set of Rosé bottlings, released last year, and which I reviewed already are two of the most exciting dry pink wines in California, one is made from 100% Grenache and the other one, is crafted from 100% Mourvédre and done in a Bandol inspired style, comes with a serious demeanor and a racy intensity that really grabs your attention and it should aged well too. Pallesen says of her new project’s first releases, the Rosé Twins, are two distinctly different wines coming from two different Rhone varietals, two different vineyards and two different AVA’s (albeit only 20 minutes away from each other, as Pallesen notes) and that her Chardonnays are true old vine wines of depth and complexity. I had been highly anticipating this pale golden wine and it did not disappoint and (it) exceeded my own expectations, fans of Whitcraft, Tyler, Drew, Kutch, Arnot-Roberts, Samuel Louis Smith and Ceritas will very much enjoy this version of Chardonnay, that has a Wente clone feel to it, as well as California classic fans that like Mount Eden, Hanzell and Stony Hill! I can’t wait to Nikki’s Hilltop Sta. Rita Hills Chard next, as well as get the Rosé when the 2021 vintage comes out, which is coming soon.
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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