2019 August West, Chardonnay, Cortada Alta Vineyard, Santa Lucía Highlands.
The beautifully balanced and aromatic Cortada Alta Chardonnay by winemaker Ed Kurtzman of August West, ex Roar and ex Freeman, is full bodied and layered, but still lively with high elevation or mountain intensity showing lemon curd, apple, pear and white peach fruits as well as wet stone, Asian clove, hazelnut and toasty oak notes. Pale gold in glass this 2019 vintage wine is very impactful on the palate and lengthy on the finish, it reminds me that Kurtzman does great things with Chardonnay and is not only a Pinot Noir specialist, this also shows the quality of the grapes that comes from this Cortada Alta Vineyard, that was planted in 2014, which is the highest in the region and is farmed with holistic methods. With mainly Pinot Noir here, Cortada Alta also has Syrah, Viognier (to co-ferment like Cote-Rotie) and Chardonnay, which I hadn’t tasted before, but for which there is lots of potential, as this 2019 August West shows. The Chardonnay clones at Cortada Alta, a very cool Ocean influenced site with complex mineral infused loamy soils, include Hyde, Wente, Robert Young, Mt. Eden, Stony Hill and 76, all of which add to the complexity and texture found in the wines made by Kurtzman, here at August West and the offerings he does for Mansfield-Dunne.

The August West wines, which are all hand crafted in small lots, are produced in San Francisco in their urban winery with a focus on Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands grapes with winemaker Ed Kurtzman having ties to both regions. Kurtzman, who got his start with Monterey’s Bernardus Winery under local legend Don Blackburn before moving over to Chalone to work with Michael Michaud getting tons of experience with grapes of the Monterey Bay durning the mid 1990s. After that, Kurtzman became a much in demand consulting winemaker for some top notch estates, like Testarossa, Fort Ross, Freeman, as noted above and the mentioned Roar, where Ed really excelled with the Santa Lucia Highland’s most prized vineyards. For his Chardonnay wines, like this one, Ed uses whole cluster pressed grapes and allows the wine to ferment in barrel naturally with indigenous yeasts and then the wine ages sur lie (on the lees) for between 12 and 15 months. The 2019 Cortada Alta Vineyard Chardonnay saw close to 40% new oak, though it feels less oaky in character than that suggests and there’s energy here that keeps things entertaining and brightly focused, though the mouth feel is luxurious (mature) and gives the wine a subtle creamy quality. I was impressed with the lineup at August West, with this one being a standout, though of course the set of Pinots were elegant and opulent efforts as well and well worth looking for!
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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