Today’s Story: Kongsgaard Wine
Kongsgaard Wine is a boutique family-owned and operated winery established in 1996 by John and Maggy Kongsgaard. However, John and Maggy (who unfortunately passed away earlier this year) are fifth generation Napa natives and began planting The Judge vineyard during the 1970s on land owned by the Kongsgaard family since the 1920s. The Judge vineyard today consists of about 10 acres, with the original 8 of Chardonnay augmented by 1 acre of Roussanne and Viognier in 1995 and 1 acre of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2001. Kongsgaard further expanded in 2004 by purchasing estate vineyards high up on Atlas Peak, and the family directs farming on additional acreage in Carneros through long-term leasing agreements. With the estate vineyards known for incredibly rocky soils, difficult elevation, and ultra-low yields, the fruit is generally very intense and concentrated.
A student of traditional European winemaking and Michel Rolland, John crafts his wines with incredible patience and a hands-off mentality in the cellar. John barrel ferments his wines (which sometimes takes up to an entire year) and does not add any yeast or bacteria. Further, John adds little to no SO2 and lets his wines rest in oak barrels for two years. Though the wines do see extensive time in oak, due to the intensity and concentration of the fruit oftentimes the oak comes into the wine only as a background or afterthought and not as an overbearing influence common in many modern Napa Chardonnays. John’s wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, and they are known for their power and intensity in youth but have the ability to age for decades down the road.
John’s wines are born from passion and great care, with production limited to what he and his son Alex can make largely by hand. Kongsgaard bottles The Judge Chardonnay, a second Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, a Viognier and Roussanne blend, and Sauvignon Blanc. Total production is around 3,300 cases.
Fun Fact: John is famous for creating the first unfiltered Chardonnay in California during his winemaking stint at Newton from 1983 to 1996.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 14.1% ABV
The 2018 Chardonnay is transparent medium to deep gold in color. I know this is downright infanticide with this wine, but after about an hour of air I was actually blown away by how expressive it is already. Starting with the nose, I get aromas of yellow apple, golden pear, stone fruit, white wildflower, matchstick, light smoke, flint, crushed rock, and a hint of oak. While quite big and downright opulent on the palate, this is much more approachable and deeper than I was expecting with notes of peach, yellow apple skins, snap pea, ginger spice, honeysuckle, hazelnut, flint, a hint of butter, and toasted oak. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, a very well-rounded and opulent mouthfeel, and a long finish. I’d still say give it a few more years, but it is nice to know that it’s quite approachable after some time decanting. 2,200 cases produced.
Price: $125 (looks like $100 if you’re a member). This is a very tough price point for me to discuss value without some trouble, particularly because there are a number of white Burgundies that punch at this point for the same price or slightly less. HOWEVER, to augment your cellar or tasting experience with some high quality Napa Chardonnay (one of the best I’ve had) I would certainly buy this again. It has incredible depth and those gorgeous but hard to find matchstick and flint characteristics, all while being in my opinion still a few years too young! Would love to try this again in the future.