Reliable and High Quality Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards is another estate I wrote about several times previously, largely because they are a “go-to” or “ole reliable” producer for me thanks to their consistency. To read any of my notes on other bottlings from Ridge, check out the 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro, 2012 Geyserville Vineyard, 2012 Lytton Springs, or 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne.

Ridge Vineyards, a historic California winery, found its beginnings near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in 1885. Osea Perrone, an Italian doctor in San Francisco, bought 180 acres and constructed the winery into three levels of the mountain using native limestone. He produced the first vintage under the Monte Bello Winery label in 1892, however later as Prohibition crippled the wine industry the facilities were abandoned.

Once Prohibition ended (thankfully), a man by the name of William Short purchased the winery and replanted several parcels to Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1940s. The breakthrough came, however, in 1959 when the winery changed hands again to Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler and the partnership produced a quarter-barrel of “Estate” Cabernet. One of the greatest Cali Cabs at the time, this Monte Bello wine inspired Dave Bennion to leave Stanford Research Institute (where all partners worked) to focus on winemaking full-time.

As winemaking ramped up at Ridge, I would be remiss not to mention their Zinfandel, first made in 1964 from vines further down the mountain. In 1966, they produced their first Geyserville Zin that many of you should be able to find at your local wine store. By 1968, the winery was approaching 3,000 cases of annual production and had grown from 15 to 45 acres following an acquisition of the original Monte Bello terraces. Ridge demonstrated a quality and character in the upper echelon of California wines, with their 1971 Cab ultimately entered into the Paris Tasting of 1976.

As further background on Ridge, I’d like the opportunity to discuss their winemaking practices as well. Calling their style “pre-industrial,” Ridge shies away from chemicals and additives prevalent in the industry nowadays. They ferment their wines only with natural yeast, do not use commercial enzymes or nutrients to affect color, flavor, or tannin in the wines, and are certified organic. Further, one of my favorite features of a bottle of Ridge is the back label that tells the winemaking process and lists ingredients, which is not common.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14.3% ABV

The 2016 Estate Chardonnay is transparent pale gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of pear, golden apple, lemon zest, white florals, slight smoky reduction, crushed rock, butter, nutmeg, and exotic peppery spice. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of white peach, pineapple, golden pear, green apple, crème brûlée, chamomile, dill, dried vanilla, mild oaky spice, and bright stony mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with racy medium (+) acidity, and oily and well-rounded mouthfeel, and a long finish.

Price: $55. I think there are better value Chardonnays out there closer to the $40 mark, however the pricing here is certainly not excessive. As always, the Ridge Estate Chardonnay is of impeccable quality and offers an incredibly enjoyable tasting experience now. The Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay, priced $20 to $30 higher, is a very special wine though if picking between the two.

Profound Bourgogne Blanc From Perhaps the Greatest Name in Meursault

Today’s Story: Domaine Roulot

Domaine Roulot is a renowned Burgundy wine estate situated in the village of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune sub-region. Though Roulot’s history dates back to at least 1830 when Guillaume Roulot registered as a vigneron, the modern domaine traces its roots more directly to a 1930 founding and growing success following WWII under Guy Roulot. Guy came into some vineyard property through his marriage to Geneviève Coche, though he quickly set about purchasing additional vineyard parcels of village and 1er Cru classifications. Unique at the time, Guy vinified and bottled his wines by single vineyard, also mastering the lieu-dit practice of bottling a named vineyard without its own “legal” classification within the larger village. Guy made some of the greatest white Burgundy at the time, even later having his 1973 Meursault Charmes place second for the white wines at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. Sadly, Guy passed away suddenly and far too soon in 1982 and left his domaine in a precarious situation since his son Jean-Marc was in Paris studying acting. Though Domaine Roulot had several winemakers come in until Jean-Marc returned home, it wasn’t until 1989 when he fully took the reigns.

Shortly after taking over, Jean-Marc transitioned fully to organic viticulture and he has not used any herbicides since. Further, any treatments used in the vineyards ensure minimal if any impact on the natural microbial life amongst the vines. In the cellar, Jean-Marc crafts wines based on a philosophy that they should be what he likes to drink, not necessarily what the “modern palate” likes to drink. While many of the wines of Meursault can be rich and concentrated, Roulot’s wines are often described as chiseled, linear, precise, restrained, tense, and transparent. He achieves these descriptors through incredibly rigorous harvesting, very gentle pressing of the fruit, indigenous yeast fermentation, barrel aging for 12 months on lees followed by 6 months in stainless steel, and modest use of new oak of between 10% and 30%. Roulot even minimizes stirring the lees (and mainly does it in vintages of higher acidity), which is a practice more common with producers who like adding richness to the wines.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV

The 2017 Bourgogne Blanc is transparent pale gold/straw yellow in color with water white variation around the rim of the glass. I decanted this for 2 hours due to its youth, and to be honest it probably could’ve decanted for longer. Once open, the nose showcases aromas of peach, green apple, apricot, white florals, matchstick, flint, wet river stone, dill, and almond. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of golden pear, lemon zest, green apple skins, white peach, honeysuckle, crushed rock, light green herbs, flint, and hazelnut. This very linear and precise Bourgogne Blanc is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous high acidity into a long finish. Not as intense as I was expecting, but give this at least 4-5 more years of cellaring before touching it.

Price: $90. This is no doubt a fantastic Bourgogne Blanc, and though I opened it young I think there are better values out there. If you can find this closer to $65-70 (and I know a few locations are still priced that way) I would be more intrigued. We shall see if I am proven wrong with more bottle age.

Champagne Charlie

Today’s Story: Champagne Charles Heidsieck

Charles Heidsieck is a well-known Champagne house established by Charles-Camille Heidsieck in 1851 in Reims when he was 29 years old. The grand-nephew of Florens-Louis Heidsieck who established the Champagne Heidsieck et Cie House, Charles grew up amongst the vines and became well-educated alongside a passion for fine Champagne. Quickly recognizing the untapped potential of the Champagne trade in America, Charles traveled to the country in 1852 and won the adoration of New York, titans of business, and the South for his Champagne. He even picked up the nickname Champagne Charlie (of which there is a song and movie titled) along the way thanks to his charm and astute business acumen.

With the success of his Champagne in America, Belgium, and England (amongst France of course), Charles made the audacious purchase of the breathtaking 3rd century chalk cellars known as the Crayères in 1867. Robbed of any light and noise 30 meters below ground, the Crayères can house millions of bottles of Champagne in perfect storage conditions where they age for the minimum four years but at times surpass 40 years. At minimum I suggest you take a look at pictures of these majestic cellars here, which are classified as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the “smaller” top-tier and well-known Champagne houses, Charles Heidsieck consists of about 60 hectares of vines divided between the Marne and Aube departments. These vineyards are all farmed adhering to sustainable viticulture, and they are certified High Environmental Value. The house also holds long-term contracts with winegrowers and cooperatives from whom they purchase extra fruit. In the cellars, a large number of reserve wines have been set aside to provide blending capability into the non-vintage bottlings where, for example, the Brut Réserve consists of about 40% reserve wines with an average age of 10 years.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Brut Millésimé

60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 2008 Brut Millésimé is transparent but very vibrant medium gold in color, showcasing beautifully delicate effervescence as well. While this no doubt needs time in the cellar (maybe revisit in 5 years?), the nose displays enticing aromas of ripe pear, golden apple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, crushed rock, brioche, vanilla cream, and almond. The palate is much more tight at this stage, characterized by notes of green apple skins, lemon, lime zest, pineapple, chalk, hazelnut, and lees. This is medium- to full-bodied with racy high acidity and a very tight, precise, and linear attack into a long, long finish.

Price: $100 (though I’ve seen this priced closer to $85-90). I think this is an exquisite Champagne and certainly one I would buy multiple bottles of to cellar. This is a fantastic showing in a fantastic vintage, and I could easily see this bottling appreciating as it falls on more peoples’ radars.

Incredibly Impressive Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Walter Scott Wines

Walter Scott Wines was established in 2008 by husband and wife Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ken comes from a background in wine, which began in 1994 in production, sales, and harvests at St. Innocent Winery. He later moved to Patricia Green Cellars in 2009, coinciding with the first vintage of Walter Scott La Combe Verte Pinot Noir in exchange for harvest labor. Erica, on the other hand, has a background in the restaurant industry and wine education. Her impressive resume includes sommelier and GM for the Ponzi Family’s Dundee Bistro, wine director at one of Portland’s best restaurants Ten 01, and wine director for Bruce Carey Restaurants. Erica has also taught classes for Wine & Spirits Archive, WSET, and the International Sommelier Guild. Lastly I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the youngest member of the Walter Scott team, Lucille who is the daughter of Ken and Erica. She “joined the team” in 2014, the same year Ken and Erica quit their main jobs to focus 100% on Walter Scott.

Walter Scott sources their fruit from a number of growers in the Willamette Valley AVA, with many in the Eola-Amity Hills area around their “home base.” All of the growers are friends of Ken and Erica, who in their words are people they like to sit around a table with while enjoying a glass of wine. All of these vineyard partners practice dry farming without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, while some are also organic or biodynamic. This meshes well with Walter Scott’s goal of producing single vineyard and blended bottlings from old vines that offer clonal diversity from expressive terroir.

In the cellar, Ken practices a more “dynamic” winemaking style in that he never follows a recipe and adapts vintage to vintage. The end goal is to purely let the wines speak for themselves and showcase each unique vineyard site with freshness and purity. Ken only ferments with native or ambient yeasts, minimizes punch-downs or extractive techniques, and remains committed in his attention to detail vintage to vintage in order to seek constant improvement. All of the wines age in French oak barrels, with each barrel a small part of the larger whole.

To learn more about Walter Scott Wines, view pictures of the team and vineyards, or purchase some bottles of your own, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2018 X Novo Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color with straw yellow hues. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine from first whiff, offering up a nose of lemon peel, golden apple, quince, dried gravel, reduction (gunpowder and smoke), petrol, limestone, and saline mineral. The palate is equally beautiful, though still pretty tight due to its youth with notes of green apple skins, golden pear, lemon curd, white florals, flint, and crushed rock minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous and mouthwatering high acidity while being very precise and crisp into a long finish. Definitely give this a few more years in the cellar, or drink it over multiple hours now.

Price: $75 (shared by a good friend who paid $65). I think this is a great value Chardonnay, and I know prices are already on the rise as this gets more recognition. Though young, this opened for us and was one of the wines of the night in an incredible lineup, also beating another 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay we put it up against.

Young and Rather Tropical Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Antica Terra

I first wrote about Antica Terra back in January 2020 with the 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir, though these wines hold a fairly sizable allocation in our cellar and I was destined to return to them sooner or later.

Antica Terra was established in 2005 by Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis, and Michael Kramer, three friends and partners who had collaborated before and dreamed of owning a vineyard together. This being said, vines were first planted in 1989 on the property, an 11 acre vineyard on pre-historic seabed in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Having taken ownership of their new vineyard, Scott, John, and Michael started seeking a winemaker and their crosshairs quickly fell upon Maggie Harrison. Maggie began her winemaking career at Sine Qua Non (known for $200-$1,000+ bottles of cult Rhone varietal wines) working for Manfred Krankl and her expertise was quickly realized. In 2004, Manfred encouraged her to begin her own Syrah project on the side, and Lillian was born (I reviewed two of these Syrahs previously). Maggie worked tirelessly on her passion project wines while still tending to barrels at Sine Qua Non, demonstrating her pure passion for the craft. When Scott, John, and Michael asked Maggie to become their winemaker, she refused profusely though the three friends ultimately convinced her to simply visit the property to offer her opinions of the vineyard. 26 seconds after Maggie stepped foot into the vineyards and observed the fossils, oaks, and vines, “she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.”

The vineyard of Antica Terra is rather intense, both in appearance above the earth and underground for the vines. The vines find home amongst fossilized oyster shells and sandstone with no topsoil, leaving them to struggle for nutrients and in turn producing incredibly unique fruit. Aboveground, the vineyard is strewn with boulders, steep grades, and vines that (due to the soil) appear spindly and frail. Fruit for Antica Terra wines forms in tiny clusters with thick-skinned grapes that are half the size that is typical for their varieties and the canopy of these plants is incredibly sensitive. Maggie provides immense care and attention to these delicate vines, which culminates into unique and immeasurably profound wines. Antica Terra produces four Pinot Noir bottlings, two Chardonnays, and one Rosé.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Aurata Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14.1% ABV

The 2018 Aurata Chardonnay is transparent medium to deep gold in color. We let this slow ox for probably an hour or two before drinking it over the following hour. The nose is much more tropical than I imagined, showcasing aromas of white peach, apricot, pineapple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, wet river stone, and delicate green herbs. Meanwhile the palate is tropical as well with notes of lemon, green apple, tropical citrus, white florals, dill, chalk, and gravel. This is medium- to full-bodied with vibrant high acidity and is very dry and nicely rounded into a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $110. I’m very anxious to return to this bottling in another 5 years or so, as it was much different than I was expecting in its youth. On the value side of things, however, I think there are better options out there sub-$100. I remain a huge fan and proponent of Antica Terra Pinot Noir, though.

Lightning in a Bottle

Today’s Story: Ceritas Wines

I previously wrote about Ceritas back in June when I reviewed the 2017 Porter-Bass Vineyard Pinot Noir, and more recently when I reviewed the 2016 Peter Martin Ray Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. As these wines can be hard to come by off the mailing list or in restaurants, I jumped at the opportunity to revisit them again today.

Ceritas Wines is a small, family-owned winery spearheaded by husband and wife duo John and Phoebe Raytek. John and Phoebe source their fruit from trusted vintners mainly in the West Sonoma Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains, with all sites practicing sustainable or organic viticulture. John is highly involved in the vineyards they source from, and in many cases the vintners only sell fruit to Ceritas and are labeled “Monopoles.” Considering himself a winemaker of the Old World style, John believes that fruit should lead the way throughout the winemaking process and he is merely there to watch over, listen, and learn about each unique site. In the cellar, John practices minimal intervention but “flexible” winemaking, with the wines meant to showcase with honesty and transparency the terroir of each specific vineyard site.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Trout Gulch Chardonnay is transparent medium gold/yellow in color with water white variation along the edges of the glass. When I first pulled the cork, I felt like I was in Chassagne or Puligny, however given 30-45 minutes to open up this wine transported me to Chablis and I never wanted to leave. The nose is one that could bring a tear to a glass eye, showcasing aromas of lemon curd, Golden Delicious apple, ripe pear, stone fruit, white wildflower, flint rock, white smoke, shaved vanilla bean, cream, saline solution, and briny mineral. And if you haven’t already, break out the tissues because the palate displays notes of yellow apple, quince, lemon and lime zest, peach, white florals, incense, dill, limestone, wet slate, seashell, saline mineral, and white exotic spice. This is medium-bodied with high acidity (which I’ll touch on in a second), a perfectly rounded mouthfeel, and a long finish of about 1 minute. While a chuggable wine, you would immediately regret “wasting” something so pure if you went that route. Oh and yes, the wine’s acidity demands that I address it alone. Is it racy like a Formula 1 car heading to the finish? Is it like sucking on a mouthful of razor blades? Is it like drinking liquid lightning? Or is it perhaps all of the above? Please, you tell me. But while I wait, at risk of attack, I’ll say this is probably the greatest domestic Chardonnay I’ve ever had.

Price: $80. Just buy it if you get the chance.

Young but Beautifully Linear Napa Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Arnot-Roberts

I previously wrote about Arnot-Roberts when I reviewed their 2016 Que Syrah Vineyard and 2018 North Coast Trousseau. I enjoyed both wines so much, I wanted to try a (young) Chardonnay today.

Arnot-Roberts is a boutique winery established in 2001 by Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, two childhood friends who grew up together in Napa Valley. After college, Nathan started working with his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels while Duncan pursued winemaking throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Arnot-Roberts began with a single barrel of wine the duo produced in their basement and over time grew through the purchase of fruit from renowned vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, and Amador counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. When selecting vineyards, Arnot-Roberts makes sure the farmers are both “passionate and conscientious” because their goal is to produce small quantities of honest, terroir-driven single-vineyard wines which truly express their unique place. The winemaking style is a mix of Old World and New World, with use of indigenous fermentation, little or no new oak, and often whole cluster with the reds. The Chardonnays, one of which I am reviewing today, ferment in stainless steel and age in neutral oak.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Watson Ranch Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 2018 Watson Ranch Chardonnay is transparent medium golden yellow in color with greenish hues. This needs 1-2 hours of air in its youth, and I drank it over the following 2 hours or so. Once opened, the nose delivers aromas of golden apple, crisp yellow pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, jasmine, light smoke, dry crushed stone, and saline mineral. Still tighter than the nose and requiring the full bottle to put together, the palate showcases notes of lemon, ripe yellow apple, stone fruit, mild dry green herbs, white wildflower, limestone, and vibrant minerality. There’s also a delicate earthiness to the wine that I think needs more bottle age to fully reveal itself. This is medium-bodied with vibrant and mouthwatering high acidity into a well-rounded and long finish. Best with another 3-5 years in bottle, but pretty hard to resist right now. 45 barrels produced.

Price: $40. I think this is a fantastic value Chardonnay, though it won’t be the wine for a lot of people. (There’s no butter here.) The Old World winemaking and boutique mentality are palpable in this bottle, pairing off nicely with the beautiful quality of fruit and precision in the final product.

Breathtaking Precision and Quality in a Bourgogne Blanc

Today’s Story: Domaine Vincent Dancer

Domaine Vincent Dancer is a small, rising star estate located in the village of Chassagne-Montrachet in Burgundy, France. Established by Vincent Dancer, the domaine consists of about 5-6 hectares under vine and was the first certified organic producer in Chassagne-Montrachet. Vincent is originally from Alsace, and though he studied engineering in school he picked up a passion for wine along the way. After some urging from his father, Vincent spent time in Burgundy to learn viticulture and oenology before taking over small acreage of family vines in 1996. Known as a quiet and humble winemaker, Vincent quietly expanded his vineyards and today has holdings in Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard, and Beaune. A staunch proponent of hands-off winemaking, Vincent hand-harvests his fruit from fairly low yielding vineyards and refrains from adding any commercial yeasts, enzymes, or acid adjustments during natural fermentation. He also resists bâtonnage, the practice of stirring the lees which is practiced by many producers in Chassagne-Montrachet to add flavors, aromas, and texture to the wine. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with common descriptors of “tense,” “precise,” and “graceful.” Total production is I believe still under 2,000 cases annually, and not a lot of Vincent’s wines make their way to the US.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2018 Bourgogne Blanc is a beautiful, transparent, pale gold in color turning water white near the edges of the glass. Now before the infanticide police come after me, I do have more of this which I am already laying down for at least 3-5 years and I did decant this wine for 2 hours. My inability to have patience is both reprimandable but rewarded. The nose steals the show at this stage, blossoming into aromas of peach, juicy pear, charred pineapple, cotton candy, freshly picked white florals, flint rock, gunpowder, smoke, toasted hazelnut, and lees. While the palate is a bit tougher to pull apart (I attribute it to youth), I can still decipher beautiful notes of golden apple, white peach, grapefruit zest, tropical citrus, limestone, freshly struck flint, dill, smoke, and dried vanilla. This is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous high acidity, a fully-rounded and opulent mouthfeel, and a long, long finish that lasts for over a minute.

Price: $49 (about $10 cheaper in France). This is one of the greatest values I’ve had all year, and I truly do not think it will remain this price for long. I’ve read a lot of hype around Vincent Dancer and I can confidently say after tasting this young bottle (not easy for me to find anything older and I spent enough time tracking down 2018s) that what I read is true. Do not pass up an opportunity to buy Dancer’s wines.

Wonderful Napa Chardonnay for a Special Occasion

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.

Pure Beauty and Elegance in Puligny-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Domaine Leflaive

It’s hard to believe more than a year has passed since I reviewed Domaine Leflaive’s 1995 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet, so revisiting this great estate is long overdue.

Domaine Leflaive is a very highly regarded winery located in Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy. While origins of the estate come as early as 1717 with Claude Leflaive, the winery as it is today seems to begin with Joseph Leflaive (1870-1953). Initially working as a naval engineer who helped develop the first French submarine, Joseph cared for his family’s vines in Puligny-Montrachet following his marriage. Thanks to phylloxera, many of the vines needed dramatic replanting and many of the produce at the time sold to wine merchants. Thus, in the 1920s, Joseph replanted the parcels of his estate and started selling wines under his own label.

When Joseph died in 1953, Domaine Leflaive came under the control of his four children (Jo, Vincent, Anne, and Jeanne) and the family desired to maintain the winery at the peak of excellence. Jo, an insurance underwriter by trade, took over the administrative and financial management of Domaine Leflaive while Vincent, an engineer who studied management and business, covered the vineyard, wines, and commercial side of the business. Over time, Domaine Leflaive produced some of the greatest white Burgundy wines and continues to be a family endeavor. In 1990, Vincent’s daughter Anne Claude became joint manager with Jo’s son Olivier and the two learned from Vincent until his death in 1993 and Anne Claude was named manager.

Much changed at the estate since the 1990s, though it is still run by the family. Today’s steward is Brice de La Morandiere, Anne Claude’s nephew and great-grandson of Joseph Leflaive. Brice’s largest contributions so far include the updating of historic buildings on the estate and enhancements to the winemaking process that include new corks to allow for prolonged aging of the Domaine’s wines.

To wrap up, I will leave you with a brief conversation on the farming and winemaking practices of Domaine Leflaive. Leflaive practices biodynamic farming in an effort to understand and appreciate all natural phenomena that ultimately strengthen the immunity of their vines. They tend to their soil with the use of products made from vegetable, animal, and mineral matter at certain points during the annual cycle, while working the land by tilling and scraping. Further, Leflaive practices organic cultivation of the vines. You can read more in-depth on their practices here.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Puligny-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2007 Puligny-Montrachet is transparent and an absolutely gorgeous deep gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, this stunner reveals aromas of golden pear, yellow apple, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, flint rock, white pepper, hazelnut, brioche, butter, and vanilla cream. The complexity continues onto the palate with notes of crisp golden apple, ripe pear, lemon zest, white florals, almond, crème brûlée, honey, dill, chalk, and toasted oak. This is medium-bodied with racy medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded mouthfeel into a long, long finish.

Price: $200. This is one of those wines with a price tag that makes your eyes pop, however it reminds you of the greatness white Burgundy can be and that Leflaive produces. This could undoubtedly be a 1er Cru from a number of other producers, and is certainly worth the hit to your wallet.