Carneros Chardonnay Drinking Beautifully With Some Age

Today’s Story: Auteur Wines

Auteur Wines, established in 2003, is a relatively small producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California’s Sonoma Coast. A family venture, Auteur is owned and operated by husband and wife Kenneth and Laura Juhasz. Kenneth found his passion for wine during college while working at restaurants and wine shops, ultimately falling in love with Pinot Noir and the endless possibilities of the variety. He worked harvests in the Willamette Valley, Napa, and New Zealand before starting Auteur with Laura. Laura, on the other hand, grew up in rural Wisconsin and worked in pharma when she met Kenneth in Oregon. Ultimately the two moved to Sonoma to start their passion project of making wine.

Auteur works closely with vineyard partners, sourcing from some of the greatest sites throughout the Sonoma Coast. While Gaps Crown, Ferrington, and Savoy may sound familiar for their Pinot Noir and Hyde for their Chardonnay, Auteur sources from other sites as well of equally incredible pedigree.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2012 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay is deep gold in color, certainly showing some age. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of baked pear, yellow apple, apricot, orange marmalade, honey, toasted nuts, buttercream, and stony mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of baked yellow apple, golden pear, lemon, white florals, brioche, dried vanilla, almond, and mineral. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $40. This is drinking incredibly well right now, both showcasing its age but maintaining acidity and proving complex as it opens in the glass. While I’d love for the finish to be a bit longer, given the age and quality I think this is a fair price if you find it today.

A Marriage of Napa Valley and Burgundy

Today’s Story: Hyde de Villaine (HdV Wines)

Hyde de Villaine Wines (HdV) is a family owned and operated wine estate established in Carneros in 2000 as a joint venture between the Hyde family of Napa Valley and the de Villaine family of Burgundy. Spearheaded by Larry Hyde, a member of one of the region’s most highly regarded winegrowing families, and Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, HdV came to fruition through Aubert’s marriage to Pamela Fairbanks who is Larry’s cousin. Using fruit exclusively from the coveted Hyde Vineyard in eastern Carneros, HdV crafts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and small amounts of Syrah as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend utilizing minimal intervention winemaking in an effort to allow the wines to speak of their terroir, variety, and vintage.

The vines which provide fruit for HdV Wines are farmed with a combination of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices to both ensure the land is viable for generations to come and this helps the grapes truly express themselves rather than a heavy hand. HdV receives first right of refusal in the vineyards, with remaining fruit sold to Napa heavyweights of the likes of Kistler, Patz & Hall, DuMOL, Ramey, and Schramsberg amongst others. HdV typically picks their fruit a couple weeks earlier than those around them, in large part to preserve more of the natural acidity and a beautiful minerality after the style of Burgundy. There is rigorous sorting in the vineyards, at the picking bins, and again at the winery to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the wines. The winery itself is organized such that gravity plays a dominant part, and the wines see a combination of stainless steel, wooden vats, and oak barrels over time. Overall the winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, again circling back to the idea that all wines should demonstrate a true sense of place. Chardonnay ages in 15-20% new medium toast French oak for about a year, followed by 3-4 months in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

To learn more or explore the HdV portfolio of wines, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Le Début Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.9% ABV

The 2016 Le Début Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color. After about 30 to 45 minutes in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of pineapple, ripe pear, peach, lemon zest, honeysuckle, dried vanilla, almond, and light butter with medium intensity. The palate is much more pronounced in intensity with notes of yellow apple, yellow pear, lemon curd, peach, pineapple, wet stone, dill, vanilla cream, and light smoke. This is dry and medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 550 cases produced.

Price: $50. This is a very good Napa Chardonnay, and on a value perspective I believe it is relatively fairly priced. You can certainly find wines of this quality or slightly better for about $10-15 less, but naturally they become much harder to find. I would certainly explore more wines in the HdV portfolio.