2015 Saxon Brown, Chardonnay, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Gaffners Saxon Brown winery based in Santa Rosa specializes in hand crafted small lot wines from outstanding vineyard sites throughout the north and central coast of California and well known for there Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, which should not be overlooked, in particular this absolutely fantastic 2015 Rosella’s Vineyard, which I was lucky to try recently at a small trade tasting. This is one of those rare experiences when you are totally blown away by a wine that maybe you weren’t expecting to shine as brightly as you’d think, and certainly this bottle was extraordinary, wiping away prejudices or notions of California Chardonnay can be when made to age! I shouldn’t have been surprised by Gaffner, who has a brilliant touch with Chard, and or Rosella’s, which is an awesome vineyard, but the combination does provide some magic here with this 2015! The first impression I came up with was that this was an old school Meursault and or a Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachet with some maturity, clearly showing secondary fruit elements, though still pristine in detail and very lively with mineral tones, depth and just the right amount of reductive matchstick to go with the core of honeyed pear, apple, lemon curd and apricot fruits. In the glass, nicely golden, this excellent Chardonnay adds white flowers, clove spice, saline infused stones, hazelnut, leesy toast and a touch of creamy butterscotch. If have this bottle tucked away or can find it, you are in for an epic reward!

One of California’s premier sites, the Rosella’s Vineyard was planted in 1996 by Gary Franscioni, partner to Gary Pisoni in the Garys’ Vineyard and founder of Roar wines, and has many different parcels and rows of diverse clones of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay, which loves the cool ocean breezes and the sandy loam soils here in Monterey’s famous Santa Lucia Highlands. The impeccably farmed Rosella’s, named for Gary’s wife, benefits from the region’s long hang time and the southeastern exposure that makes for ripe fruit, but with vibrant acidity that gives the wines from this vineyard their exceptional richness and balance, especially the Chardonnay, as proved here in Jeff Gaffner’s perfectly matured example. Gaffner says he focused on creating a wine that was built to age and have Burgundy like characteristics, going on he explains that the Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay was picked cold in the early morning hours and he transferred the grapes immediately to the winery where they were whole fruit pressed. The juice, he adds, was cold settled for three days at 40F before being racked to 40% new French oak barrels and inoculated with select Burgundian (Montrachet) yeast. Then after 90 days of cold fermentation, the Chardonnay saw sur lie (on the Lees) aging in the barrel for an additional 9 months with a delayed and lengthy 100% malolactic fermentation. To preserve purity and freshness the wine was soon there after bottled, unfined and unfiltered, with some cases being held in the library for a late release, which has paid off big time, such is the reward that this vintage is now delivering.
($52 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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