Grapelive Chardonnay Day Dreams-My Top Ten Picks for International Chardonnay Day 2014 #ChardonnayDay on Twitter
by Kerry Winslow
2012 Alfaro Family, Chardonnay, Lindsay Paige Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
As a longtime fan of Richard Alfaro’s wines, especially his Chardonnay, it is always with great expectations that I look forward to the newest releases, and this one was no exception, in fact I was already primed for it as Richard had told me repeatedly that 2012 was an awesome vintage, so I was jazzed and thrilled to open this new Lindsay Paige Vineyard Chardonnay from his Santa Cruz Mountains estate near Corralitos not too far from the cool Pacific Ocean. I can certainly tell you beyond any doubt, I was not in anyway disappointed, Alfaro has crafted another profound and moving wine that is pure class and very hedonistic, pleasing from start to finish with gorgeous fruit, body and vivid flavors. The nose starts off with white flowers, steely minerals, peach and citrus leading to a lush palate of creamy lemon, apple, pear and pineapple with hints of smoke, hazelnuts and river stones along with nice french oak notes and a hint of butter and vanilla. This luxurious Chardonnay still has plenty of tangy acidity underpinning everything and is totally glorious, a wonderful artisan wine.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Manoir du Capucin, Macon Solutre-Pouilly “Delice” White Burgundy, France.
The wines of Chloe Bayon are a must try, these Macon and Pouilly area wines are shinning examples of what great terroir and talent hides in this remote part of Burgundy, her estate Manoir du Capucin label is one to really search out, and her 2012 wines are majestic. Fresh out of oenology school, Ms Bayon took over her family Manor and vineyards in 2002 and in the following ten vintages has cemented her name in the “who’s got talent” list in Burgundy, and having tried a few vintages now, I find her wines compelling and gorgeous, this is serious stuff, she has revived this estate and Clos, that was originally purchased by her direct relatives in the 12th century, and her Chardonnays have made her a star, she in fact is now the president of the Pouilly-Fuisse union of winegrowers and winemakers. Chole’s 2011 got my attention, they are stunning, but from what I tasted recently, her 2012’s are her best yet and I highly recommend grabbing them up, especially charm are her Pouilly-Fuisse a world class white that rivals many a fine Chassagne or Puligny, and this super value priced Macon Solutre-Pouilly that is irresistible and dynamic which has the mineral and brisk drive of a Premier Cru Chablis and the exotic nature and ultra fine detail of a Cote de Beaune, though given to give a better impression, these mental images are not to take away from the unique quality and character found in the Macon, this is a very old and distinct terroir that is rediscovering it’s history and sense of place, and Bayon’s wines show this rebirth of greatness to perfection. The 2012 Manoir du Capucin Macon Solutre-Pouilly shows white flowers, wet river stones, orange blossoms, lime and yellow peach notes to start, leading to a steely palate of energy filled apple, pear, lemon and clove along with a hint of tropical essences, hazelnuts, chalky/stones, anise and fresh fig. These is super classy texture and balance, this wine is light to medium weight in feel, but offers wonderful layers and details that truly leave you wondering how you can have all this in a $20 bottle of Chardonnay, and if you think this is good you need to check out her next level wines too!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, Golden Slope, Sta. Rita Hills.
This beautifully crafted Chardonnay is another success for the young and talented team at Liquid Farm, a rising star on the Sta. Rita Hills wine scene and beyond. The 2012 releases elevates Liquid Farm into the top echelon of fine artisan producers of Chardonnay in the greater Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara area, these wines show the passion and energy of the very best from their region, moving them up along side Brewer-Clifton, Sandhi and Tyler, all of which are highly recommended. Of the latest set of 2012 the Golden Slope really stands out, this is interesting and vigorous Chardonnay that has a Burgundy like austerity, but unique charms and lots of personality with fresh dynamic acidity and underlying richness, this not a harsh lean wine, nor is it a flabby cream pie, this is well made and pure Chardonnay that will intrigue you and keep a smile on your face from first sip until to the faint memory is all that’s left in the bottle. Liquid Farm’s first release was a mere 4 barrels in 2009, their mission was to connect the wine with the place, soils and growers, they wanted to transmit terroir and make vibrant expressions of Chardonnay, with the help of Brandon Sparks-Gillis of Dragonette Cellars the husband and wife team of Jeff and Nikki Nelson have done so in spades. The new Golden slope starts with white flowers, vivid citrus and mineral tones leading to a zesty palate of vivacious fruits, spice and herb notes that feels almost Chablis like steely, but with a bit more California sun infused. The Golden Slope was all native yeast fermented with 85% neutral wood and 15% new French oak, which adds a bit of style, baking spices and a sumptuous volume to this fine Chardonnay. This mid palate expands with lemon, peach, clove and yellow apples along with hints of sea salt, vanilla and tropical notes. This wine should prove entertaining over the next 3 to 5 years and may just reward even longer cellaring, this is very savvy and alluring juice.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Savary, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes Selection, France.
A racy brisk Chablis with dynamic character, the Savary Old Vine is a terrific and classic wine that offers a stunning value. Olivier Savary is a rising talent in Chablis and his wines are secretly called baby Raveneaus, highlighting the quality and style his wines show. The 2012 Savary Vieilles Vignes is vibrant and fresh with pure Chardonnay varietal charms, lime, lemon and green granny smith apples with hints of steely mineral, loads of chalky limestone and wet river stones. This is a white Burgundy lover’s dream, this is very vivid and elegant wine, do not miss.
I’ve been a fan since the 2007 vintage, and this wine year after year has been consistently one of my favorite Chardonnays, especially for the price, there are not too many wines that compare, drink now through 2020.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Rully “Les Cailloux” White Burgundy, France.
The small lot wines of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey are hot ticket items and the demand is fierce, this guy is on fire and Burgundy lovers are scrambling to get his latest releases. I managed to score his Rully Les Cailloux to sample and I can attest to the talents Colin-Morey and to the quality of the 2012 vintage, which will be extremely scarce, with as much as 60% of the production in the Cote de Beaune lost to a small crop that was weather damaged by hail. What came in the end was a tiny crop of sublime fruit and everyone is trying desperately to get their hands on these wines. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey’s Rully Les Cailloux 2012 is from the Cote Chalonnaise and near the Chagny commune, and is is elegant, classic and charming, this is a pure Chardonnay that delivers all that is expected of it with layers of lemon, baked apple, pear and white peach, along with hazelnuts, sea salt and plenty of juicy acidity plus steely mineral notes and lots of wet stones. With air complexity and depth come into play in this compelling 12% alcohol white, with palm dates, golden fig, clove and lime flower all playing roles, this is lovely and vibrant stuff, I can only imagine how wonderful his Cru wines are, if you see these wines I suggest you grab them.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligy-Montrachet “Folatieres” Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
A masterclass in style, grace and expression, this is pure Puligny at it’s finest, made by Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille and the owner winemaker at his Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet. Tasted with Etienne, just prior to San Francisco’s 2014 La Paulee Burgundy fest, the Folatieres is a marvelous Puligny with loads of mineral, wet stones, smoke and hazelnut rising from the glass leading to lemon tart, apple and pear fruits with clarified cream, steely elements and good density. Wonderful focus and harmony throughout, almost without flaw, this is fantastic Chardonnay from a Domaine that is punching way above it’s price class, Etienne since taking over Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet is making some of his best wines ever here, and he explained to me that 2011 might just be better than 2010 for whites and feels they are real steals in the market place, and after tasting through his wines might just agree, I’m finding these 2011’s generous and beautifully detailed, and while I am loving the 2010 reds more at this stage, even the 2011 reds are showing well, much better than early reports, but again these 2011 whites are suburb and I highly recommend them. This is a Domaine to start collecting if you are a Burgundy drinker! Don’t miss this glorious Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres, drink 2015-2020.
($109 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux, Meursault, White Burgundy, France.
Jean-Michel Gaunoux is legendary, and it was a thrill to meet him and taste through his line up of Meursault, plus his reds, everything was precise and beautifully crafted with the bonus of being gorgeous already, these 2011 wines are open and generous even now. Gaunoux is famed for his glorious Chardonnay and like Roulot and Jobard are coveted by Meursault fans around the world, these wines are on another level than most, sadly until now I’d only had a very few chances to taste the Gaunoux wines, so after hearing about them for more than a decade, this was a special moment and it surpassed expectations. While his top crus are magnificent and unforgettable, I maybe was most impressed by his AC regular bottling of Meursault, this is fantastic stuff and quality from start to finish and while 2011 doesn’t get the hype and press love that 2010 gets, it is a stunning vintage for Burgundy drinkers, not the speculators, more the pleasure for us, and Gaunoux’s wines are truly delicious. The 2011 Meursault starts with fine perfume of white flowers, wet stones and touches of earth, spice and sea leading to a round and textured palate of white peach, lemon and apple fruits with hints of spiced pear, hazelnut and steely notes, this is classy and vibrant Chardonnay with good depth, a rich character and taught acidity. This beauty drinks sublimely now, but has plenty of potential to age another decade, it certainly will not disappoint now or later, drink from 2015-2020.
($70 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, River Block, Russian River Valley.
The 2010 River Block is a glorious Pinot Noir, it is shedding it’s baby fat and lavish French oak leaving a full flavored wine with beautiful detail and lush texture. While not easy to find, and rather pricy, the Rochioli Pinots are luxury items and some of the most delectable in the state. I was lucky, after a seven year wait I was able to get on their mailing list and I now get a small offer each year, of which I try to get a few Pinots from the estate, along with the Chardonnay. I open them them for friends or special occasions, so after a short cellar period I decided to open this bottle, as it happened it was my birthday wine, that put grand expectations on this vintage and I can happily report this River Block easily met all my expectations and exceeded my desires on the night, with a great performance, this is wonderful stuff, even though it will be even better with another 3 to 5 years. The 2010 Rochioli River Block starts with a rich bouquet of floral notes, mocha, smoke, red berries and spicy vanilla leading to a full mouth of plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with ripe silky tannins, subtle acidity, licorice and dried cranberry. This is a showy wine, but still has balance and depth, this is a total pleasure to drink and will only reward those that wait a bit longer, I’d say as good as it is now, it should merit a higher rating in 3 to 5 years, everything is there to be a classic legendary wine from this world class winery.
($120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis, Montee de Tonnerre, Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre is my favorite Chablis, though I must say if I could afford Les Clos it might be a little higher in my favorite list, but honestly I adore Montee de Tonnerre and love it’s vigor, intensity and unique charms. I consider myself very lucky indeed to have experience with Raveneau’s Montee de Tonnerre, going back more than a few vintages and for me this wine is everything you could ask or want from a great Chablis it shows vibrancy, terroir and complexity with exotic notes and lots of steely minerality. As a part of a La Paulee San Francisco tasting I had a chance to pour and show this marvelous wine, and while it is not for everyone, it is truly one of the world’s most exciting white wines, I decanted two bottles and showed one without decanting, the difference was amazing, note to self, decant, decant, decant! The 2011 vintage is showing much better in bottle than some critical voices have suggested and after an hour of decanting the Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre was explosively stunning and hitting on all cylinders, this is fantastic Chardonnay with lively flavors and beautiful details. The nose is still shy with hints of citrus flower, white tea, briny/seaweed, chalk and grapefruit, but the palate is vocal with a choir of layers music including green apple, lime, kiwi and vivid lemon along with marmalade notes, wet river stones, saline, tangy citrus pip and soft leesy tones. With air and a slight warming in the glass the texture turns creamy and a hint of vanilla comes forth, but you never lose the acidity and focus, this is wondrous and classic Chablis and a pure heavenly joy to behold, Drink from 2016 to 2023, worth every penny on the right occasion.
($160 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Poruzots, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
This is a seriously chiseled Meursault, unbelievably firm and lean with sizzling acidity and powerful, just as Jobard wanted and dreamed of I’m sure. This golden nectar will surly need a decade to unfold all of it’s charm and unleash it’s potential, but that all being said and true, this fine and masterful Chardonnay is glorious with exceptional purity, focus, drive and terroir, this could be only Meursault Poruzots and certainly this vintage is completely on show, with Jobard’s signature style. This mineral laced beauty maybe the Ice Queen at the moment, but the extract, detail and length are all there, I love the energy and force on display even now, it shows wet stones, lemon, pear and subtle fig along with matchstick, hazelnuts and clove spice. Even decanting hardly got this tight and vivid Meursault to open, this is dynamic wine and as much as I begged it, it will require the ultimate in patience, though the rewards will be stunning, no question, everything is there like a treasure just out of reach for now. A few years back, I was able to sample a selection of Jobard wines with 10-12 years of age on them, and they were glorious and still very vibrant and youthful, so be sure to lock these puppies away, and to those that do, well, lucky you, these will be wonderful surprises in time, I can only imagine, and be sure to have a Lobster around! Drink from 2018 to 2024, for those that adore classic white Burgs, this wine would be a great investment in future pleasures.
($120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Happy #ChardonnayDay and please note there are many great Chardonnays out there, and I would have put 100’s of choices if I had the time or space, and of course I left some of my favorites off this list, so will mention a few more to look for, Brewer-Clifton, Arnot-Roberts, Donum Estate, Hirsch Vineyards, Peay and Zepaltas! Cheers!