2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa.
The impeccably made and beautifully balance Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, a long time favorite, especially this 2020 vintage marries lush new world style concentration and opulence with old world flavor and stony elegance showing a rich texture, fine aromatics and crisp acidity. This vintage has some serious stuffing that comes flowing across the full bodied palate with creamy layers of lemon, peach, apple and pear fruits along with mineral tones, white flowers, clove spice, golden fig, leesy brioche, hazelnut, subtle wood shadings, wet rock, and a hint of star anise. Everything folds nice together in mouth and goes on and on, after this Chard comes up to drinking temp, be sure not to serve it too cold and it really benefits from food, it is less an aperitif or cocktail wine, rather a wine that shows its full character and class with a meal, with some substance and flesh being best, like swordfish, lobster and roast poultry dishes bringing out its most rewarding charms. This part of the Cape has become an excellent source of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, these are some of South Africa’s most desirable wines, in particular I have been thrilled by what this world famous winery has done with these classic Burgundian varietals over the years and this vintage really shines, I highly recommend this one. I am excited for those that haven’t had the chance to try these Hamilton Russell offerings, as I believe it is almost impossible not to be seduced by them and I look forward to trying the latest estate Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir as soon as I can.

The Hamilton Russell winery is located in one of the most southerly wine regions in all of Africa, with this producers being renown as a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist that, as the winery notes, pioneered viticulture in this picturesque area, with its cool maritime climate. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation starts just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus on the Western Cape and is the heart and soul of these Hamilton Russell wines, it was the estate’s founder, Tim Hamilton Russell, who first saw the opportunity for making great wines here in this unique terroir and purchased this undeveloped 170 hectare property back in 1975 and started planting the first vines here. Later His son, Anthony Hamilton Russell, who took over in 1991, took this estate from obscurity to international fame with a laser like focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. After some extensive soil research that Anthony initiated back in 1994, when he finally bought out his father, he identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soils that have proved pivotal in the quest to make wines on the next level, which he most certainly accomplished. In recent years, Anthony with his wife Olive, brought on winemaker Emul Ross and viticulturist Johan Montgomery, who have continued to made these Hamilton Russell wines very special and highly coveted and very much in demand. The pale gold and slightly reductive Hamilton Russell Chardonnay was mostly barrel fermented and 94% saw full Malo-lactic conversion, with a tiny percentage being tank raised without malos to promote freshness. Then it was aged ten months in Francois Freres French oak barrels, with close to 25% new, with a combination of sizes from the classic 225L barriques to 300L casks, as well as a small amount seeing foudre. All of which has made for an exceptional Chardonnay that is structured to age gracefully and drink superbly well even in its youth.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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