Showing posts with label California Chardonnay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California Chardonnay. Show all posts

Monday, May 6, 2024

Don't Call This Chardonnay Cheap - Call It Affordable

Grocery chain Trader Joe's is a place you learn to love very quickly. Nice prices on things like wine, beer, cheese and nuts are fine, but the fact that the product is of high quality is a real bonus.

TJ's carries wines from a variety of producers, but the 2023 Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay is reportedly made by Castoro Cellars in the Paso Robles town of Templeton. Central Coast grapes went into the private label wine, which is unoaked. Alcohol is reasonable at 13$ abv and it sells at Trader Joe's for a bit less than $7. 

This wine has more of a yellow tint than I would expect from an unoaked Chardonnay. The nose is clean, though. Brilliant aromas of flowers, pears, peaches and apples come through with nary a trace of wood aging. The palate is rich and full, with fruit flavors dominating. Acidity is fresh and zippy, and nearly razor sharp. The fruit lasts on the finish and the wine is a perfect match for seafood, white sauce pasta or chicken.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Pour Some Chardonnay On My Popcorn

California Chardonnay- big, bombastic white wines full of oak and all that implies - is a style many wine drinkers have been shying away from in recent years.  The swing toward unoaked - naked, if you will - Chardonnays which emphasize the flavor of the fruit and the effect of the earth has left many old-line California Chardonnays holding the oak.

I'll admit: I love the purity and minerality expressed in an unoaked or low-oaked Chardonnay.  Burgundy found long ago how much was to be gained by letting the terroir do the talking.  There are times, though, when you want a Chardonnay to get all hedonistic on you.  For me, that's in the wintertime.

This bottle of 2021 Edna Valley Buttery Chardonnay (they put the hedonism right on the label) somehow managed to survive the holiday season, which is when I most appreciate a good, oaky, buttery Chardonnay. 

The winery folks say this wine is a "bright and creamy expression of California's Central Coast," and their location in San Luis Obispo County would support that. The label, however, shows an appellation of "California," so there are likely some grapes from outside their estate included. Alcohol tips 14.3% abv and the price is listed on the website at $15. I found mine at a grocery store sale for about half that. 

This wine colors up straw-gold in the glass. The nose, which I was expecting to offer aromas of a movie theater snack bar, actually shows more fruit than butter or oak. Meyer lemon and tangerine are most noticeable, along with a slightly savory salinity. On the palate, that's where the butter is. Citrus flavors mingle with the sweet oak spice. Although there is a lot of that spice, the oak treatment is handled extremely well. The acidity is fresh and invigorating, too, despite the creaminess of the wine. For pairing, think chicken in an alfredo sauce or a scampi. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Value Wine When Price Is On The Line

Line 39 Wines lies, not unexpectedly, near the 39th parallel which runs through Lake County, California. They operate under the umbrella of St. Helena-based Cecchetti Wine Company

I discovered Line 39 when a friend called one day, excitedly telling me that their Cabernet Sauvignon was on sale at a wine shop we both frequented. "This wine is good," he said, "and it’s a great value because it's dirt cheap!" Well, good wine dirt cheap is the very definition of a value, is it not? 

I rushed to the wine shop and bought a bottle, then returned the next day to buy another. In the months that ensued, I tried a half dozen different varieties from Line 39, all of which were good values.

The 2021 Line 39 California Chardonnay is a tad more expensive than it was a decade ago, but it is just as good. Winemaker Alyssa Reynolds crafts this wine, which bears the California appellation. Alcohol rests at 13.5% abv and the wine sells in most places for $10 or less.

The pale straw-colored wine smells sweet from fruit and oak. There are notes of citrus, apple and pear on the nose, along with a distinct floral component. On the palate, fruit again leads the way. Oak spice plays an important role, although it is not overdone. Acidity is quite fresh and the finish is long and pleasant. This wine will pair very well with a buttery pasta dish or shellfish. 

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

New Vintages From Sonoma-Cutrer: The Cutrer Chardonnay

From the heart of the Russian River Valley, Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating the release of three new vintages of some of their most popular wines. Newly bottled are the 2022 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the 2021 The Cutrer Chardonnay and the 2021 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. 

The celebration of new vintages come at a time when Sonoma-Cutrer is being acquired by Duckhorn for $400 million. Maybe they’re popping the cork on some sparkling wine in addition to these wines. 

For the first time in its four-plus decade history, Sonoma-Cutrer features an all-female team led by their newest and first female Director of Winemaking Cara Morrison, and Senior Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono. The team follows the company line of combining Burgundian tradition with Californian innovation, always making sure to respect the terroir and the people of Sonoma County.

The Sonoma-Cutrer The Cutrer Chardonnay shows a pale yellow color in the glass. The nose is heavily laced with oak spice, vanilla and butter on top of the beautiful citrus, peach and pear display. On the palate, the fruit is rich and ripe while the oak is also quite pronounced. I lean towards oakier Chardonnays over the holidays, for some reason. This one hits me just right in that respect while bringing a zingy acidity to the full mouthfeel. It is gorgeous. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

New Vintages From Sonoma-Cutrer: Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

From the heart of the Russian River Valley, Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating the release of three new vintages of some of their most popular wines. Newly bottled are the 2022 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the 2021 The Cutrer Chardonnay and the 2021 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. 

For the first time in its four-plus decade history, Sonoma-Cutrer features an all-female team led by their newest and first female Director of Winemaking Cara Morrison, and Senior Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono. The team follows the company line of combining Burgundian tradition with Californian innovation, always making sure to respect the terroir and the people of Sonoma County.

The 2022 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay draws fruit from four of the winery's estate vineyards plus some from trusted local growers. All these sites benefit from the coastal fog, the afternoon breezes and the day-to-night temperature swing. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and the juice flowed into tanks, then the wine was vinified in mostly French oak barrels. That is where aging took place over eight months, in a mix of new, one-year-old and neutral wood. There was full malolactic fermentation with the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Alcohol sits at 13.9% abv and the retail price is $25.

This wine has a lovely yellow tint. The nose is full of Meyer lemon, apricot and buttery vanilla. The palate shows more fruit than oak, which is surprising given the color and aroma. Lemon, lime, golden apple and pear dominate the flavor package, with subtle oak spice and vanilla notes. The acidity is fine and the finish is long. It is a beautiful Chardonnay. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Napa Legends Led To This Chardonnay

The Charles Krug Winery has been in the Napa Valley for about as long as winemaking has been there. The winery was founded in 1861 by Mr. Charles Krug, a visionary who is seen as the father of Napa Valley winemaking. The Mondavi family purchased the outfit in 1943 and still own it today.

The grapes for the 2022 Krug Carneros Chardonnay were grown in the Peter Mondavi Sr. family estates and turned into liquid magic by winemaker Stacy Clark. The wine was aged on the lees (in contact with the spent yeast cells) and was fermented in about half oak, half steel. Alcohol hits 14.3% abv and the retail price is $26.

This wine has a faint yellow tint in the glass. The nose gives off lemon notes with some minerality and a hint of orange peel and salinity. The palate shows off a lovely array of citrus flavors and a racy acidity that will make food pairing easy. This is a delightful wine, and it offers a lot for the price. 

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Is A Cheap Chardonnay A Bargain?

Looking for a bargain in the wine aisle can be a daunting experience. Is a cheap wine necessarily a bargain? Not by a long shot. If you are not paying a lot for a bad wine, you got a good price, but at a cost. Good deals abound, though. It just takes a little discerning shopping. 

The 2021 Winemakers Selection Classic Series Chardonnay is cheap, real cheap. My expectations were not high while unscrewing the cap. But, in the interest of investigative reporting, I did unscrew and poured a glass.

On both the front and back labels of the bottle there are references to the fact that the wine was "California made," which is an unusual expression to find on a wine label. California is not given as an appellation, although the state is listed on the website as the "origin" of the wine. The verbal dancing makes me wonder where the grapes were grown. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine costs somewhere around $5. 

This wine has a nice golden color. It smells fruity, with lots of citrus, pear and peach notes showing. The nose also has a significant amount of oak on it. The palate bears out the oak treatment, with a hefty dose of wood. If that is not in your wheelhouse, you might want to steer clear. If oak is your jam, then this is a great bargain for you.

Monday, September 25, 2023

A Bargain Chardonnay From Santa Barbara County

Magistrate Wines are a bargain brand, a supermarket wine. It is available, usually, for less than $10 and the company has a small line of wines - a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Alexander Valley, a Paso Robles Merlot, a Lodi Zinfandel and a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay.

Santa Barbara County is, I think, an unheralded wine region. It does not get the same sort of play that Napa Valley or Burgundy gets, but the wines from that large AVA are typically excellent. They are also nearly always a tad expensive, so it was with great curiosity that I plucked the bottle of white wine from the bottom shelf at Walmart. 

One of Magistrate's winemakers, Kip Lorenzetti, calls the company's creations "unpretentious and elegant." He has hit the nail on the head, at least for the Chardonnay.

There is little information on specifics available, but the label tells us that the grapes are from Santa Barbara County and the alcohol level sits at 13.5% abv. It cost about $5. There is an effect of oak.

This yellow wine has a somewhat muted nose of citrus, minerals and apricots, with just a hint of vanilla. The palate is far more expressive, showing a beautiful array of lemons, limes, tangerines and green apples. The oak treatment is nicely done, spicy but not over-the-top buttery. The label had me hoping that the wine inside the bottle would be good, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was much better than good. This wine is not simply inexpensive - it's a bargain.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Sonoma-Cutrer's Salute To Growing Partner Dutton Ranch

Sonoma-Cutrer Director of Winemaking Cara Morrison says the idea for this year's Winemaker's Release series was to kick it off with a salute to longtime growing partner Dutton Ranch. That means the spotlight falls on the 2021 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

Members of the Dutton family have been working the land in Sonoma County since the 1880s, about a hundred years longer than the winery has been standing. Today, the family is sustainably farming about 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, and Sonoma Coast appellations. The grapes for the 2021 Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker's Release Dutton Ranch Chardonnay came from the RRV - the Gerboth and Alpers vineyards - and were estate bottled at the winery.

The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the wine was fermented in a mix of new and used French oak barrels, then aged in them on the lees for ten months. The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation, for the creamy mouthfeel. Winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the back label. The wine carries alcohol at 14.2% abv and retails for $40.  

This wine has a clean looking greenish gold tint to it. The nose is beautiful, with notes of ripe peaches and nectarines along with some buttered bread. There is a citrus angle, too, with plenty of minerality. The citrus leads the way on the palate and there is a healthy dose of fresh acidity to go along with it. The buttery note lingers on the finish, which is lengthy and satisfying. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Beautiful Chardonnay In A Can

Simply Cutrer is the entry into the world of canned wine for Sonoma-Cutrer. It is, quite simply, California Chardonnay in a can. It tastes just as good as the Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay you know and love in a bottle, but it is way more convenient. The wine carries an alcohol level of 13.9% abv and it retails at $20 for a four-pack of 250ml cans. Sonoma-Cutrer's Chardonnay Winemaker Cara Morrison says "Simply Cutrer was made with summer sipping in mind."

This pale golden wine has a beautiful nose which offers honeydew, peaches and citrus aromas. There is also evidence of the oak treatment, with vanilla and caramel notes playing lightly into the package. On the palate it is a full mouthfeel, rich and creamy. The oak spice comes through, but again does not get in the way of the fruit. Acidity is fresh and lively, enough so that shrimp or lobster can be on the menu - or any fish dish, really, especially in a creamy sauce.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Toasty Chardonnay From Sonoma Coast

La Crema's 2021 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay hails from one of Sonoma County's biggest AVAs. The Sonoma Coast ranges from the San Pablo Bay in the south all the way to Mendocino County to the north. Its defining feature is the rugged coastline it runs along, and its cool climate. That comes thanks to the fog which keeps summer temperatures at bay. Cool climate Chardonnay is a treat, one that makes the Sonoma Coast a prime locale for growing Chardonnay grapes.

2021 was an excellent growing season, according to the folks at La Crema. They say the winter was relatively dry and the spring was quite cold. The ripening of the grapes were urged along by a hot spell in August. The grapes were sourced from a handful of La Crema's estate vineyards - Laughlin, Saralees, Fluton, KelliAnn, Carneros Hills West, Carneros Hills East, Piner and Durell among them.

The wine was aged for six months in barrels, on the lees and after malolactic fermentation. Three-quarters of the wood was French and a quarter was American oak. Seventeen percent of it was new. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail price tag reads $23.

The straw colored wine offers a bountiful nose, full of floral notes, citrus, stone fruit and a decent helping of oak spice. The mouthfeel is full and creamy, yet with an acidity that is just short of racy. The fruity palate is draped with enough oak so that you know it's there, but not so much that it is a bother. La Crema has a nice sipping Chardonnay here. 

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Monday, May 8, 2023

Ode To Burgundy Or Tip Of Hat To Old Cali?

The grapes for the 2021 J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Chardonnay were sustainably grown in the gravelly soil of the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County. J. Lohr's white wine specialist, Kristen Barnhisel says that most of the blend for this full varietal wine are Dijon clone 76 grapes. There are some of the Mt. Eden clone, which gives us the Meyer lemon notes. Clone 17 brings a creamy floral aspect while clones 95 and 96 have stone fruit in store.

Barnhisel says that "the 2021 growing season in the Arroyo Seco was characterized by the coolest spring and summer in a decade. The cool weather during the summer provided a slow and even ripening of the grapes, while the afternoon winds helped to keep the fruit healthy until harvest." The wine was fermented in oak and aged there as well, for 14 months. Nearly half of the French oak was new. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the retail price is $25.

The J. Lohr people call this wine their "Ode to Burgundy.," but I feel that this wine wants to be noticed. The pretty yellow juice offers up a nose of Meyer lemons, peaches and nectarines with a healthy dollop of oak present. The bouquet also contains a bit of vanilla and butter. The palate is loaded with oak effect, but the citrus and stone fruit still poke through. Acidity is refreshing, if just a tad flabby. It is an enjoyable wine, particularly if you have a fondness for the old Cali style of Chardonnay. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Hold On To Your Hat For This Chardonnay

Cline Family Cellars is a family-owned wine producer in California's Sonoma County. They are located on a beautiful ranch and are celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary. 

Fred Cline writes that his Carneros Chardonnay - Hat Strap - was named for the habit of cinching one's hat strap while walking the vineyard as the winds from San Pablo Bay blow across the vines. It's that wind that helps keep the climate cool for the grapes to increase their hang time, which increases their flavor. It also has cost more than a few people their hats.

The grapes - from Los Carneros - were fermented in a mixture of steel tanks and oak barrels, with 10 months aging, which took place mostly in French oak. A little more than a third of the wine was aged in first-use wood, a third in neutral barrels and the rest was aged in stainless steel tanks. Extended contact with the spent yeast cells resulted in 100% malolactic fermentation, using a bacteria designed to inhibit buttery notes. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $30.

The 2021 Hat Strap Chardonnay from Cline colors up very pale in the glass and offers a nice nose of lemon, apricot and white pepper. The palate frames the fruit with savory herbs like sage. The acidity is lively enough to pair with salads, pasta with cream or lemon sauce and mushroom risotto. The finish is long and savory with a strong streak of salinity in it. This one of the better Chardonnays I have had in a while.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wine From Everyone's Favorite Neighbor

My Favorite Neighbor is a winery run by Eric Jensen, owner of Booker Vineyard in Paso Robles. He and some of his Paso neighbors collaborate on a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, which they make to exacting standards. Jensen puts the concept on the label - grapes which are "thoughtfully farmed with careful consideration for the land."

Jensen's Booker Vineyard is certified organic. The MFN grapes come from a variety of special vineyards. The name comes from one of his grape-growing neighbors, who would always identify himself on the phone as "your favorite neighbor." It's nice to know we are not limited to just one favorite neighbor.

MFN Blanc 2021 is full-throated Chardonnay, grown in San Luis Obispo County. The wine was aged for eight months in equal parts new and experienced oak barrels. Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the retail price is $50.

This wine sits golden in the glass and offers a beautiful nose of apricot, Meyer lemon and oak spice, with a nice dollop of salinity in the mix. That savory note explodes on the palate and brings all that lovely fruit along with it. The acidity is right on the mark - food friendly while maintaining the creamy mouthfeel. The oak treatment is noticeable, but not at all overdone, and it leaves a nearly buttery sensation on the lengthy finish. 

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Monday, November 7, 2022

A Sonoma Chardonnay From Sun And Wind

Located in Sonoma County's Carneros region, Anaba Wines boasts that they are "powered by the sun, sustained by the wind." It should come as no surprise that the winery draws extensively on solar and wind power to make their wines.

Just so you don't let it slip past you, they have named their flagship line "Turbine," after  the 45-foot Skystream windmill which powers their facility. I have been supplied with a Chardonnay from this line, and I am eagerly looking forward to their Picpoul, Rosé, Pinot Noir and carbonic Grenache, as well as a red and a white blend of Rhône varieties. The wines come packaged in lighter-weight glass and without a foil capsule over the cork.

The 2021 Anaba Turbine White, as the Chardonnay is known, is sourced from coastal Sonoma vineyards. Winemaker Katy Wilson ferments and ages the wine entirely in stainless steel. She says that allows the fruit flavors and natural acidity to shine. The wine's alcohol level clocks in at 12.3% abv and it sells for $34. Only 233 cases were produced.

This is one of those wines which show us why people like Chardonnay so much. It sits light yellow in the glass. It gives a very nice package of aromas - peaches, apricots, citrus, tropical fruit - which goes to demonstrate the all-steel vinification it went through. Those fruit flavors are abundant on the palate, and the acidity is fresh and zippy. The finish is fairly long and leans into the stone fruit notes after the sip. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Two Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnays

The folks at Sonoma-Cutrer are celebrating 40 years of passion, imagination and pride in 2022.  They say their approach to winemaking "marries Burgundian traditions and California ingenuity."  Head winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the label, showing the pride that leads to the boast that their Chardonnay is one of America's favorites. They are even putting it in cans, all the better for summertime sipping on the go.

Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2020

The 2020 vintage brought with it all the usual challenges that winemakers find - drought, hot weather, wildfires - plus the additional problem of COVID to work around. They did work around it and managed to produce a wine which is another in a long line of California classics. This wine was split between oak and tank aging - 85% oak for eight months. Alcohol sits at a moderate 13.9% abv and the bottle retails for $23.

The nose is bursting with the aroma of apricots and peaches, lemons, vanilla and butter. The palate is as rich as Chardonnay gets, with sweet stone fruit flavors and a zippy acidity. You will be able to pair this wine not only with salads'n'seafood, but chicken and pork as well. The finish leaves a buttery reminder of the wine's opulence.

Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay 2019

The Les Pierres estate vineyard features volcanic soil, loaded with minerality, baked in sunshine and cooled by the Pacific Ocean. Only six percent of their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay came from Les Pierres. 

The winemaker says the 2019 vintage was one for the ages - double the amount of rain that usually averages all year. Other than that, it was perfect California weather all season long. The wine was fermented in oak and aged there, too, for a full year with another six months in the bottle. Full malolactic fermentation was reached, lending a full and creamy mouthfeel to the sip. Alcohol clocks in at 14.2% abv and the wine retails for $46.

The wine is quite pale, mostly a very faint yellow with a hint of green at times. Its nose offers up more citrus than stone fruit, but both are well-represented. The fruit steals the show on the palate, too, although the acidity is quite racy and makes a case for itself as the lead. There are wonderful spice notes that come through in aromas and flavors. Oak is handled tastefully and the finish is long and supple.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Via Paso Robles

Proprietors Georges and Daniel Daou, of Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles, credit their mountain home - Daou Mountain - with being able to "turn mere raindrops and roots into extraordinary wines—and into lasting relationships."

They say their terroir is a very rare soil, calcareous clay, the same type found in Saint-Émilion and the right bank of Bordeaux.  The limestone subsoil, they say, is perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties.  They boast that it was exactly the soil they were looking for more than a decade ago when they searched around the world for their dream vineyard.

Now known as DAOU Mountain, the land rises to an elevation of 2,200 feet in the hills of the Adelaida District, on the west side of the Paso Robles AVA.  Georges wants to make it clear that he and his brother did not buy a winery - they bought dirt and brought in the passion to unlock its potential.  Daniel is the winemaker sibling.  

The 2020 Bodyguard Chardonnay, however, comes from Santa Barbara County.  It is the newest addition to the Daou wine list.  The grapes were grown in the Santa Barbara appellation, a great source for Chardonnay grapes.  French and American oak barrels give the wine that classic California Chardonnay feel.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the retail sticker reads $40.

One sniff and you know this golden juice is a California Chardonnay.  The peach, pear and lemon aromas are as upfront as you'd expect, and the whiff of buttery oak - not at all overdone - draws the drinker in like a magnet.  Amazing fruit drives the palate, too, with enough of that buttery feel to remind us why we love California.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Great Sonoma Chardonnay

Petaluma based Adobe Road Winery owner Kevin Buckler is a real-life race car driver.  His winemaker, Garrett Martin, reportedly drives the speed limit and brakes fully at stop signs.  The Adobe Road Racing Series of wines includes Apex, Redline, The 24 and the latest release, SHIFT 2019.  Their less "racy" bottlings include the 2019 Famighetti Vineyard Viognier and the 2019 Adobe Road Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Roberts Road.  

Information is a little scant for the latter wine, but previous vintages have been 100% Chardonnay, taken from the Sonoma side of the Carneros appellation and aged for ten months in a mixture of new and used French oak and stainless steel.  Malolactic fermentation was stopped at 30% and the wine rested on its lees - the spent yeast.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.3% abv and the wine sells for $52.

Martin says the "scrappy little organic vineyard … always surprises with its richness and intensity of detail."  The wine has a medium-rich golden tint and a nose that cries to be noticed.  The peach and nectarine aromas are lovely enough, but there are delicate touches of lemon and even a hint - just a hint - of butter.  The palate offers a custard-like flavor which seems to be at once sweet and savory.  The mouthfeel plays games, too - racy acidity, no, creamy and hefty.  This is really a great tasting Chardonnay, one of the better ones I have had from California.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Two Nice Wines From Creston Highlands

The Highlands 41 wine label comes from Monterey County, but it is under the wine umbrella of the Los Angeles-based Riboli family and their San Antonio Winery.  You may also know of their wines by the names Stella Rosa, San Simeon, Maddalena or Opaque.  From L.A. to Paso Robles to Monterey to Italy, the Ribolis have vineyards in some of the best places on earth to grow grapes.

San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by making sacramental wines in the urban heart of Los Angeles.  While all the other wineries folded, the Riboli's winery flourished, thanks to the family's strong connection to the church.  At more than 100 years old, it is the oldest and largest producing winery in Los Angeles.

Highlands 41 Pinot Noir 2020

On the label, this brand promises the "thrill of exploration and the spirit of adventure."  To me, that just about sums up the promise contained in any bottle of wine.  The name, Highlands 41, comes from Highway 41 and the Creston Highlands.  Those highlands, by the way, used to be a seabed - providing the ground with plenty of limestone mineral deposits.  This wine is vinified to 14.5% abv and it retails for $15.

This Monterey County Pinot Noir is fairly dark and very fragrant in the glass.  Aromas of black cherry, black tea, licorice and cinnamon put together the kind of display that makes me think of the holidays.  Dark fruit dominates the palate, and a full set of tannins accompany the juicy sip.  The Riboli family recommends pairing their Highlands 41 Pinot with grilled sausage, pasta primavera, baked salmon or roasted duck.  I would toss in turkey and ham as excellent pairings.  I had mine with lemon and honey Wensleydale cheese, and it was beautiful.

The Highlands 41 Chardonnay 2019 has an alcohol content of 14.% abv and a retail price of $15.

This wine has a lovely golden tint in the glass.  The nose is loaded with sweet oak spice, which I normally wouldn't care for in a Chardonnay, but I go with it over the holidays.  It also shows aromas of tropical fruit and a hint of burnt caramel - also a nice holiday touch.  The palate plays up the fruit more than the oak - for which I am grateful - and gives a nice acidity to make it a good wine to pair with food.  The Ribolis say that the Highlands 41 Chardonnay goes best with baked halibut, wild mushroom risotto, fried chicken or grilled pork loin.  I will go along with all of those recommendations.  

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Throwback Chardonnay From Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards their wines have won over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer The Cutrer Chardonnay 2019

This Chardonnay cuvée from Sonoma-Cutrer is all Chardonnay.  The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation during its time in barrels, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for five months  Another eight months of aging took place in older barrels, and then there were three more months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv and the retail price is $35.

This Chardonnay has a golden tint in the glass, and is quite clear, too.  The nose displays oak, imparted during the 13 months or so it spent in barrels.  Underneath the wood lies some beautiful fruit - pears, peaches, pineapples, lemons.  The mouthfeel is creamy - expected with full malolactic fermentation - and yet a racy acidity flows behind it.  There is definitely a buttery note on the sip, one that harkens back to a different time for California Chardonnay.