Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Chardonnay?

The variety that wine has to offer appeals to me so much that I often find myself passing up the standard stash of grape varieties in favor of more exotic treats.  It's not that Cab, Pinot and Chardonnay are boring - not by a long shot - but the thrill of getting off the beaten path sways me time and time again.  That's why I like a good reason to get back on the road more traveled every so often.

Those who cry "anything but Chardonnay" may be exploring new things - and that's good - but they are also unfairly turning their backs on a grape variety which has a lot to say.

Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery has their first annual Celebration of Chardonnay coming up on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  California's favorite white grape will also be celebrated at the upcoming Chardonnay Symposium at the end of June in the Santa Maria Valley.  I was in the right place at the right time on a visit to the Sta. Rita Hills, stopping in at Foley's tasting room west of Buellton to sample a variety of their Chardonnay offerings.  The ranch lingo used in naming their vineyards is Bill Foley’s tip of the Stetson to his cattleman days.

2010 Chardonnay, Steel
The Rancho Santa Rosa vineyard gives the fruit for this one, and it is kept in its purest state, without the influence of wood.  Tropical citrus and pineapple meet a lively spiciness and a zesty acidity.

2009 Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa
The golden tint tips off the presence of oak, but Dave, who poured the samples for me, hit the barrel stave on the head when he said, “It’s doesn’t spend a lot of time in oak, so it’s creamy rather than buttery.”  The oak isn’t overdone in any of these Chardonnays.  Here, the pineapple and minerals come through beautifully.

2009 Chardonnay, JA Ranch
Aged in 35% new, French toasted oak, this is what California Chardonnay should always be about.  A smoky nose introduces a gorgeous palate of apricot tinged with caramel.

2009 Chardonnay, T-Anchor
A touch of smokiness on the nose doesn’t obscure the rocks and citrus aromas.  There’s a bit more oak on the palate here, too, with a huge fruit expression to offer.

2009 Chardonnay, Bar Lazy S Ranch
The minerality is the star here, but there a strong supporting cast of varied fruit flavors.  Toasty oak spice and zippy acidity complete the big mouthfeel.

2009 Chardonnay, Two Sisters
From the Rancho Las Hermanos vineyard, This is Foley’s top of the line Chardonnay.  With 20 months in all new French oak, I would expect a disturbingly wooden touch to this one, which is not the case.  50% malolactic fermentation increases the creaminess.  It’s smoky, creamy and rich, but clean tasting, not buttery.

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