Friday, July 24, 2015

The North And South Of Chardonnay With Castello di Amorosa

The Napa Valley winery known as Castello di Amorosa is fashioned after a Tuscan castle. It fits that a good number of the wines produced there are made using grapes of Italian heritage. They do a pretty mean Chardonnay, too, though. In fact, they do three Chardonnays that show how terroir and aging both have such dramatic effect on the grape.

These three different Castello di Amorosa Chardonnays from the 2013 vintage showcase the grapes’ origins, the different production methods employed.and the versatility of the variety. The trio include the Napa Valley Chardonnay from their estate vineyard in Los Carneros, and two from the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Director of Winemaking Brooks Painter writes that, “By using these two cool-climate vineyards, we hope to showcase the unique terroir of each of these Chardonnays.” One of the Bien Nacido wines was aged in oak, while the other was aged in a concrete fermentation egg at the Napa Valley winery. That, according to Painter, allows the yeast cells to remain suspended - which makes for a creamier finished product. Winemaker Peter Velleno and Vineyard Manager David Béjar bring plenty of experience to the winery, too.

Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Barbara County 2013

The Castello has plenty of great grapes in Napa Valley, but they went south for this one, to Santa Barbara County’s Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. This single-vineyard, 100% Chardonnay is aged ten months in French oak barrels, half new and half seeing their second use. About 40% of the juice undergoes malolactic fermentation and the wine is aged with the spent yeast cells still in the barrel, with stirring to keep the yeast suspended. Both of these features contribute to the wine’s creamy texture and full mouthfeel.

Velleno produced a little over 450 cases of this wine, which has a 14.8% abv number and sells for $38 per bottle.

The oak plays quite a strident melody here; its effect seems rather brutal to the fruit from this iconic vineyard. Vanilla and oak spice lead the aroma profile, with the gorgeous tropical fruit scents dragging behind. Oak is also a big factor on the palate. If you like 'em big and buttery, this Chardonnay is for you. The wine feels nice and full in my mouth - as it should - yet the acidity comes through in fine fashion. It's a great choice to pair with roasted chicken, even pork. A nice, creamy risotto would be a fine match, too.

Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay La Rocca, Bien Nacido Vineyard 2013

This one is fermented in a single egg-shaped concrete vessel. Aging occured in contact with the spent yeast cells - lees - for 10 months. The richness comes completely from the aging on the lees, rather than from oak barrels. This preserves the fruit flavors. It was not allowed a secondary malolactic fermentation, so the acidity remains somewhat lively.  177 cases were produced, alcohol is at 14.8% abv and the retail price is $38.

This wine features a light golden straw tint with a nose of apples, pineapples and peaches. Big, pure fruit is what is showing here. The palate has a gorgeous mouthfeel, silky and creamy without the wood. The acidity is subdued, but still enough to handle pairing with a salad or seafood. Peach and apricot are foremost with a light touch of earth, but the fruit is the show.

Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013

Back to the Napa Valley here, as the grapes for this one are harvested from the Los Carneros estate vineyard, where the cool breeze from San Paulo Bay keep things Burgundian. The wine gets full French oak aging, half new and half neutral, with about 40% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation. Aging is done sur lie - in contact with the spent yeast cells - for ten months. 827 cases were produced, with alcohol very ripe at 15.3% abv. Retail is $29.

This wine has a beautiful color, like solid gold. Peaches, nectarines and oak grace the nose, with a nice, soft vanilla layer. The oak is not over done. On the palate, peach, apricot and earth dominate, with the oak aging apparent. The wood effect is not full-on buttery, but close to it. The acidity is magnificent. Get some shrimp, crab or lobster - nice with mussels or clams, too. It may be lobster roll time! The finish leaves the buttery vanilla trace of oak along with that earthy fruit.

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