2015 Saxon Brown, Chardonnay, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros AVA, Napa Valley.
The beautifully mature, deep golden hued and voluptuously concentrated Hyde Vineyard 2015 Saxon Brown Chardonnay is a rewarding treat from one of California’s great Chardonnay vineyards with rich layers of apple, pear, lemon curd and baked peach leading the way on the full bodied and creamy palate that still has a nice sense of acidity, spice and saline, adding leesy almond paste, golden fig, clove spice, wet stones and luxurious wood framing. Those that like bigger framed and textural Chardonnay will really enjoy this Hyde, especially fans of the classics like Mount Eden, Kistler, Joseph Swan and Hanzell. The prestigious Hyde Vineyard, that was founded by Larry Hyde in 1979, produces some of the most coveted grapes in Napa Valley and. consists over 200 planted acres in Carneros, with a diverse terrain and unique micro-climates. The Hyde family sells fruit to over 35 different wineries, with Saxon Brown get a small batch of ultra high quality Chardonnay grapes for this wine. Located in the heart of Carneros, on hardened clay like soils, the Hyde Vineyards is located in the coolest region of Napa Valley, rather than the Sonoma side, influenced by the cooling effect of the Petaluma Gap and the San Pablo bay, making for long hang time and deep flavors, while retaining vivid acidity. It’s always great to dig into winemaker Jeff Gaffner’s Saxon Brown wines, as well as the wines he helps make on the side, in addition to his Saxon Brown, Jeff is the consulting winemaker for artisan labels including Stephanie by Hestan (Napa Valley), Black Kite Cellars (Anderson Valley), Vincent Christopher (Sonoma Coast), Modicum (Napa Valley), and Etre Wines (Sonoma Coast).

Jeff Gaffner’s 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. Gaffner says he focused on creating a wine that was built to age and have classic white Burgundy like characteristics. The Chardonnay grapes, Gaffner explains, are picked cold in the early morning hours, and he transferred the grapes immediately to the winery, then they were whole (cluster) fruit pressed. The juice typically, he adds, gets 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, as this one was. Gaffner, who started with Chateau St. Jean under the legendary Richard Arrowood, launched his own Saxon Brown label in 1997 to focus on small single vineyard botttlings reflecting, as he says to make elegantly structured, well balanced and age worthy wines. Jeff expanded Saxon Brown’s production over the years, and now includes some awesome vineyards like Durell, Gap’s Crown and Roberts Road (Sonoma Coast), Hyde (Carneros-Napa), as seen here, Green Acres (Carneros-Sonoma), Ferrington (Anderson Valley) and Rosella’s (Santa Lucia Highlands) vineyards, all of which are exciting, tiny production and search worthy bottlings.
($49 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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