2021 Samuel Louis Smith, Chardonnay, Spear Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The crisply focused and pale gold 2021 version of Spear Vineyard Chardonnay from Samuel Louis Smith is a brilliant effort that combines elegant richness and exciting tension with beautiful aromatics, lifting acidity and gorgeous depth, perfectly capturing the vintage and place. The palate is nicely layered with apple, pear, peach and lemony citrus fruits along with clove spice and hazelnut accented, a light sense of oak and fine mineral tones, making for an exceptional stony Chardonnay. Sam Smith, who is also the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, is a very talented winemaker who is becoming a big star on the central coast, as I’ve said in prior reviews, with his 2020 and soon to be released 2021vintages already getting a lot of attention. California Chardonnay is now seeing a renaissance, with many stylish examples, like this Samuel Louis Smith Spear Vineyard, as well as other exciting Chards from Kutch, Arnot Roberts, Cerritas, Greg Brewer’s Diatom, Whitcraft, Beauregard’s Bald Mountain, The Hilt Estate, Tyler and Big Basin’s Coast View, to name just a few. The Samuel Louis Smith Chardonnays are 100% barrel fermented with native yeasts, with both primary and full malos allowed to go (through) naturally. Usually Smith gives the Chard nine months of elevage in a combination of new and used French oak with 15% to 20% new, 20% second-fill, and close to 65% neutral wood employed, making it an exceptionally pure, transparent and textured wine.

The Spear Vineyard, as noted here in prior reviews, is already highly regarded and the wines coming from here are wonderfully balanced, have great depth and lovely aromatics, making it one of the Sta. Rita Hill’s prime locations and Sam’s Chardonnay is proof positive of the greatness here and its future potential. Planted in 2014, Spear has Pinot Noir and Chardonnay primarily in the ground and it is farmed organically by Ofer Shepher, who deserves much praise for his efforts. Spear’s northern border, as Smith notes, and steep north-facing slopes hug Highway 246, giving the site a cooler tone and a long growing season that allows for complete ripeness with low sugars. Smith also notes that Spear’s varied elevation reaches 900 feet, getting some of the coldest blasts of Ocean air in the region and soils are mainly comprised of marine sedimentary clay and sand, meaning they are well drained, but provide a good defense to drought conditions, important for vine health and quality as this wine proves again. I highly recommend joining the mailing list here, to get these limited production and handcrafted wines, and while most people with be racing to get Smith’s Pinot Noir, Syrah and Gamay offerings, I suggest not missing out on the Chardonnays, they are thrilling efforts, especially this bottling, which continues to be my favorite in the lineup. Smith who’s travelled many times to France, is inspired by old world wines and has gained a lot of insight into the classics from northern Rhone, Burgundy and more recently Champagne and is working on a set of Sparkling wines, which I am excited about too.
($39 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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