Old School Napa Chardonnay for the Cellar

Today’s Story: Mayacamas Vineyards

Mayacamas was established in 1889 by German immigrant John Henry Fisher and is located in the Mt. Veeder AVA of the Napa Valley. Fisher went bankrupt in the early 1900s, however, and the winery ceased production with the onset of Prohibition (although bootleggers are said to have made wine in the cellars during the early years). Mayacamas was owned by the Brandlin family during the 1920s and 1930s, before being purchased by Jack and Mary Taylor in 1941 when the estate received its current name. Mayacamas changed hands yet again in 1968 when Robert and Elinor Travers purchased it, with the couple quickly setting about expanding the aging facilities and vineyard holdings while planting and replanting vines. Charles and Ali Banks purchased Mayacamas in 2007, though the winery has since changed hands again to the Schottenstein family.

Though the history of Mayacamas is long and inclusive of many ownership changes, the one constant is the traditional style of winemaking they practice. Mayacamas was one of the wines in the 1976 Judgment of Paris (they poured their 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon) which showed the estate can stand up with the greatest Californian and French wines of the world. Mayacamas dry farms their vineyards and transitioned a large portion to organic viticulture in 2013, further enhancing the quality of fruit. Very traditional in style, they age the wines in neutral oak to not mask any of the true expressions of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety or the terroir.

I previously wrote about Mayacamas when I reviewed the 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon last June.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14% ABV

The 2019 Chardonnay is pale gold in color and transparent. 30 to 40 minutes in the glass does the wine wonders at this youthful stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of green apple, ripe pear, lemon zest, melon rind, honeysuckle, flint, and minerality reminiscent of finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are also pronounced, with the palate displaying notes of Granny Smith apple skins, lime pith, poached pear, chamomile, wet stone, mild white pepper, and almond. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $50. I think this is very well-priced and offers solid value. The intensity, complexity, and structure bode well for the longer term and this is made in a very old school style which I love.

Chardonnay off the Beaten Path

Today’s Story: Jean Bourdy

Jean Bourdy is a historic family-owned estate dating to 1475 in the Jura region of France. Today under guidance of the family’s 15th generation and brothers Jean-Phillipe and Jean-François Bourdy, the family domaine consists of ten hectares (25 acres) planted to Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Poulsard, Chardonnay, and Savagnin. Winemaking here is incredibly traditional, beginning in the vineyards where the Bourdy brothers practice biodynamic viticulture using only cow manure as fertilizer and whey or flower teas for disease control. All wines ferment naturally with indigenous yeasts in old oak vats, then they age in old oak barrels and foudres that are at times 80 years old themselves. Wines are only topped up once and sulfur additions either never occur or only in very, very small doses, so the wines oxidize slowly in the very cold and damp cellars while adding complexity. The wines age out for several years before release, however the Bourdy brothers hold back some wine each vintage and today command an incredible library with wines going back to the 19th century.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Côtes du Jura Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Côtes du Jura Blanc is medium to deep gold in color and transparent. Per the suggestion on the back label, I opened this four hours before serving but did not decant it. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, golden pear, grilled pineapple, honey, sweet tart dust, chalk, freshly baked bread, almond, and charred oak. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of baked yellow apple, peach, dried apricot, dried green herbs, white mushroom, wet stone, almond, toast, and sea salt. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $30. For me, I think this is a great value though it will be a very different and “interesting” Chardonnay for what many will likely expect or be used to. The intensity, complexity, and balance are already great and this has the structure to go the distance. If you are unfamiliar with the wines of Jura and want to try something new, give this one a try.

Fun Mineral-Filled White Blend From the Loire Valley

Today’s Story: Domaine de Bellevue

Domaine de Bellevue was established by Jérôme Brétaudeau in the Muscadet wine region of France’s Loire Valley. Not far from the Atlantic Ocean, the domaine sits in a maritime climate on granite soils where the wines are often low in alcohol and high in acidity with pronounced mineral characteristics. Domaine de Bellevue consists of 12 hectares (30 acres) of vineyards which are all farmed organically since 2009. Jérôme is in the process of moving to full biodynamic viticulture now. Jérôme works with 11 different varieties which is somewhat unusual in the region, and they include Merlot, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris, Savagnin, and Chardonnay to name a few. Winemaking here is rather traditional and minimally invasive so the wines can express themselves and the terroir in honest fashion, and they typically age in concrete eggs or clay amphorae.

Today’s Wine: 2019 La Justice

75% Chardonnay, 25% Savagnin; 12% ABV

The 2019 La Justice is pale gold in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of yellow apple skins, lemon peel, stone fruit, white lily, flint, oyster shell, sea salt, and vanilla bean. There’s also a note somewhat reminiscent of cotton candy. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of baked yellow apple, ripe pear, tropical citrus, white floral blossom, dill, chalk, and brine. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very fun and enjoyable to drink.

Price: $46. I think this is pretty fairly priced and even a good value given its complexity, balance, length, and fun factor. While the palate isn’t as intense as the nose, there are a lot of great factors at play here and this even reminds me a little bit of white Burgundy but with a heavier mineral presence.

Precise Oregon Chardonnay for a Great Value

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded. Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay from Big Table Farm, so please check out those tasting notes as well if you missed them!

Today’s Wine: 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 12.3% ABV

The 2019 Wild Bee Chardonnay is medium yellow in color. This needs about 45 minutes to open up in the glass, then it begins to sing. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of green apple, pear, lemon curd, white floral blossom, flint, dill, and honeycomb. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of green apple skins, lemon and lime zest, ripe pear, wax, wet stone, dill, and saline mineral. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is a beautiful, precise Chardonnay and I’m excited to see where it goes over the next few years in bottle.

Price: $30. This is a very, very good value Chardonnay. I can’t pull any faults out of this wine, and the quality, balance, length, and intensity are profound. It’s fairly complex at this stage, and should only add further complexities over the next few years.

Crisp and Incredibly Fun Austrian Amber Wine

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I recently reviewed two other bottlings from Weingut Werlitsch, first the 2017 Glück which is similar in profile to the wine I’m reviewing today and then the 2017 Ex Vero I.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Freude

70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Freude is pale to medium amber in color and slightly hazy. Given some time to warm up from cellar temperature and breathe, this blossoms into a gorgeous and complex wine. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, and the nose showcases aromas of orange marmalade, dried apricot, dried orange peel, honeysuckle, oregano, wet slate, brine, slightly under-baked bread, honey, and toasted almond. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of peach, mandarin orange, dried apricot, marzipan, dill, chamomile, honey, chalk, toasted almond, and unsweetened vanilla yogurt. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Absolutely outstanding.

Price: $55. I know this is not an inexpensive bottle, particularly for an amber/orange wine, though I think this offers tremendous value. Not only is this incredibly complex, well-balanced, and of extreme quality, it’s a very fun wine and I prefer this to the Glück I had recently.

Rarity From Nuits Saint Georges

Today’s Story: Domaine de l’Arlot

Domaine de l’Arlot is a historic and well-regarded wine estate located in Nuits St. Georges within the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy, France. Though its roots trace back to the 18th century and owner Jean-Charles Vienot, its more recent history begins in 1891 when the domain was purchased and expanded by wine merchant Jules Belin. Domaine de l’Arlot remained in the Belin family until early 1987, and then was purchased by the French investment company of AXA Millésimes. Around the same time, Jean-Pierre de Smet came on board after spending eight years with Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and he is largely credited with the winemaking philosophy at the domain of minimal intervention. Though Jean-Pierre retired in 2007, this philosophy remained largely intact and today de l’Arlot is run by technical director and Burgundy native Géraldine Godot.

Domaine de l’Arlot today consists of 14 hectares (35 acres) of vineyards planted 95% to Pinot Noir and only 5% to Chardonnay. Average vine age is about 50 years, however the property does maintain some vines aged 70+ years. de l’Arlot farms their vineyards adhering to biodynamic viticulture, a transition that started in 2003 following several years of organic viticulture. A couple of the most prized plots are monopoles of the domain, the 1er Cru vineyards of Clos des Forêts Saint Georges and Clos de l’Arlot.

In terms of winemaking style, Géraldine practices a minimal intervention and “less is more” mentality. Fruit is hand-harvested and every motion within the winery and cellar is accomplished by the use of gravity. The wines ferment spontaneously with only native yeasts, seeing minimal pumpovers and punchdowns by foot. For aging, Géraldine uses less new oak than what was previously used over the domain’s history, which in turn provides a more transparent and true-to-variety and terroir expression. New oak percentages and length of aging vary by vintage and bottling, however the end goal never wavers of producing terroir-driven wines.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Clos de l’Arlot

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Clos de l’Arlot is pale golden straw in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the wine opens with aromas of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of lemon, green apple, white florals, flint, wet river stone, mild green herbs, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of green apple, lemon pith, white peach, floral blossom, dried green herbs, and wet stone. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good right now, but I would love to see if this adds complexities perhaps with a few more years of bottle age.

Price: $120. I think there are better values out there, however I think the pricing here is partly due to the great reputation of the producer as well as how rare white wines are from Nuits Saint Georges. As one of their rarest and top bottlings, I can see why this is priced the way it is.

Terroir Lover’s Chardonnay From the Sta. Rita Hills

Today’s Story: Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm is a Chardonnay-focused winery established in 2009 in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County, California. Founded by Jeff and Nikki Nelson, Liquid Farm started with four barrels of wine and the dream to produce Old World style Chardonnay while supporting local viticulture. Two of these first four barrels showcased a more mineral-driven profile that reminded Jeff and Nikki of Chablis so they named it White Hill after the white chalky hills of Chablis. The other two barrels showcased warmer tones and fuller profiles reminiscent of Meursault, so they named that wine Golden Slope after the Côte d’Or. Though Liquid Farm expanded their portfolio over time, they still focus on four Chardonnay bottlings as well as a rosé and small amounts of Pinot Noir.

Sticking to their love of Old World wines, the winemaking philosophy at Liquid Farm is rather traditional. Under the guide of winemaker James Sparks, winemaking follows the path of minimal intervention from manual harvest through to native yeast fermentation and aging in neutral oak barrels. The team makes no machine adjustments or additions to the wine in order to preserve a sense of place and true-to-variety profile, ultimately even letting the wines go through malolactic fermentation naturally. Given the cool climate of Sta. Rita Hills, these wines are often bottled with higher natural acidity and lower alcohol which makes them perfect table wines for anyone who appreciates the style and an expression of terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay is medium gold in color. After about 45 minutes in the glass, this really opened up and showed nicely. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of crisp yellow apple, lemon zest, tropical citrus, honeysuckle, flint, wet river stone, almond, freshly-baked bread, and smoke. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of pear, quince, lemon and lime zest, dried pineapple, brioche, toasted almond, vanilla, and a hint of mineral. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This strikes a very solid balance between Old and New World, with an Old World tilt.

Price: $47. I think this fits somewhere between the fairly-priced and value distinctions, as it is certainly very high quality and offers great intensity and complexity. There’s just enough California fruit to this where I can’t quite equate it with white Burgundy, but it is pretty darn close which I enjoy with my domestic Chardonnay.

Refreshing and Unique Austrian White Field Blend

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I recently wrote about the 2017 Glück from Werlitsch, which is a fun amber wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Ex Vero I

Field blend of Morillon (Chardonnay) and Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Ex Vero I is medium gold in color and transparent but slightly hazy. Per the back label, I gave this a lengthy decant which I found to be optimal around the 2 hour mark. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the gorgeous nose showcases aromas of yellow apple, white peach, white wildflower, dried garden herbs, popcorn kernel, gravel, and chalk. There’s also a good deal of reduction (gunsmoke, matchstick) and some flint on the nose which plays somewhat of a dominant role. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of yellow apple, pear, honeysuckle, seashell, wet stone, dried herbs, and saline mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. Though this is a very different white wine, I feel comfortable calling it a great value. It’s incredibly fun while also maintaining a winning profile of intensity, complexity, length, and balance. Very excited to try this again in a couple years.

Value Grand Cru Chablis

Today’s Story: Domaine Vocoret et Fils

Domaine Vocoret et Fils is a family-owned and operated domain, established in Chablis in 1870 by Edouard Vocoret. Today Domaine Vocoret is under guide of the fourth generation of the family, and their holdings are quite impressive at around 40 hectares of sustainably-farmed vineyards. Of these holdings, roughly 16 hectares are Village level, 17 hectares are 1er Cru, and 4 hectares are the Grand Crus of Les Clos, Blanchot, Valmur, and Vaudésir with the balance Petit Chablis. Though Vocoret invested in modern and high quality winemaking equipment, the production of their wines remains very traditional for Chablis. Grapes are hand-sorted before heading to the pneumatic press, and after fermentation the wines head into stainless steel for aging to preserve their fresh fruit and vibrancy (though the 1er and Grand Crus do see some new oak which is becoming more popular in Chablis today).

Today’s Wine: 2017 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2017 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos is medium yellow in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, white peach, mango, white floral blossom, flint, chalk, and almond. Flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, with the wine displaying notes of green apple, lemon, white peach, mild green herbs, wet stone, a hint of smoke, and mineral. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. A very precise and youthful white Burgundy that should develop nicely over the years to come.

Price: $90. While I would like more intensity out of this wine, it offers very solid value for Chablis especially at the Grand Cru level. It’s precise and well-balanced already, but I’m looking forward to revisiting this as it adds complexity over the future.

Chuggable Austrian Amber Wine

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Glück

50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Glück is medium amber in color and slightly hazy. I found this better after it warmed from cellar temperature, so I let it sit in the glass for a little while. The aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is rather complex, showcasing aromas of dried apricot, orange peel, bruised apple, yellow wildflower, honey, mild mushroom, grass, chalk, and saline mineral. Flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of mandarin orange peel, apricot, crisp red apple, orange marmalade, honey, dried green herbs, sea salt, and chalky mineral. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $47. I’m still relatively new into my exploration of amber wines, so I will refrain at this point from discussing an overall “value” perspective. However, this is one of if not the best I’ve had so far, and its quality, complexity, intrigue, and drinkability make it well worth the price for me.