2018 The Hilt, Chardonnay, Estate, Sta. Rita Hills.
I must admit, I was late getting on board with these The Hilt wines, but I am massively impressed with the lineup I tried recently and greatly admire Matt Dees, the winemaker here, who has crafted some beauties, especially his Estate bottlings of Pinot Noir and this gorgeous Chardonnay, it ranks right up there with some of my classic favorites with the same thrill and quality that you see in Hanzell, Mount Eden, Peter Michael and others. This pale golden Estate Chardonnay is showing fantastically well, still vibrant and youthful, but with seamless layering of apple, Bosc Pear, lemon curd, white peach and subtle tropical fruits that is perfectly accented by orange blossoms, honeysuckle, hazelnut, sea salt, wet stones and a leesy richness, all framed by toast wood. Dees says, his 2018 Estate Chardonnay is pure, compact and driving, with a sense of tension and full of kinetic energy. He adds, that the wine shows the seemingly endless sunlight and perfect growing conditions of 2018 and is lifted and framed by classic Hilt terroir influences, including the mentioned saline and an electricity on the finish. All of which is clearly on display here, it adds hints of key lime, golden fig and clarified cream with air, making it feel smooth and elegant on the luxurious and full bodied palate. There is a lot to love here and this Chard will go nicely with a range of foods, in particular I would recommend soft farm cheeses, sea foods like lobster and swordfish, as well as roast poultry that will allow the complexity and depth here to shine.

The Hilt Estate Chardonnay comes from selected plots of estate vineyards within the Sta. Rita Hills, including the highly regarded Bentrock Vineyard site with its sandy and chalky soils that sees the region’s cool climate and Ocean breezes, helping make this a very balanced wine that comes in at 13% natural alcohol. Dees used a clonal selection of an old Sanford & Benedict selection, clone 76 and clone 95 in this wine that saw a unique elevage regime that included 34% New French oak, 56% neutral French oak, plus about 10% being aged in stainless steel for 11 months, to promote purity and non buttery richness in equal amounts. Considering the winery produced just over 2,000 cases, this wine has a real hand made like feel to it and like the Estate Pinot Noir, it is very impressive stuff and not impossible to find. Located in the southwestern corner of the Sta. Rita Hills, the Hilt Estate Winery, a sister property to Jonata Estate in the Santa Ynez, is now one of the major players in the Santa Barbara area, with the winery focusing exclusively on Burgundian varietals, and this latest collection are prime examples of just how good this place is for those varietals. Interestingly, I loved the Estate offerings just as well as their upper echelon single vineyard wines, maybe because of how excellent the 2018 vintage was. The Hilt also does a Champagne style sparkler that has a grower producer intensity with a no dosage almost Extra Brut mineral tone and vitality, it is made from 78% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Noir and saw 36 months on the lees. If you’ve not had these wines yet, you really should, they are fabulous efforts that are drinking beautifully right now.
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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