Posted on 09 May 2008.
There was a time not too many years ago when I (like many of you) had a slogan of “A.B.C.” – anything but chard – and we can largely thank the state of California and its parade of over-oaked fanboys for that. chardonnay is a gorgeous grape which has been a staple around the world for centuries. There are many reasons for this, however, I think it’s because chardonnay one of the more approachable white grape varieties available by an overwhelming majority of both wine drinks and folks new to wine.
Thankfully, there are wineries out there who’ve heard the cries of us who’ve been stung by the over-oaked, over-saturated chardonnay’s and have aimed to put their grapes on less oak. This 2004 Estate-grown chardonnay from Terra Blanca is an excellent wine for well under $12 which means it’s very price-competitive to the over-oaked, “grocery brands” so many folks are buying.
Harvest: Sugar – 22.3º Brix
Titratable Acidity – 0.75g/100ml
pH – 3.34
Bottle: Titratable Acidity – 0.72g/100ml
pH – 3.39
alcohol – 13.5% by volume
Red Mountain Estate Vineyard
I emailed Terra Blanca’s Owner/Winemaker, Keith Pilgrim, about this chardonnay because I wasn’t picking up much oak at all and here was his reply:
Chardonnay is probably the varietal that the styles produced on the west coast from Washington to California have changed or evolved more than any other wine. When we made our first estate Chardonnay in 1997 from grapes planted on the only slightly cooler spot on our Red Mountain site (it slopes slightly to the east and north rather than south and west as the rest of the property does) the wine was 100% barrel fermented in all French oak with about 40% of the barrels being new and the remainder 1 to 3 years old and the wine was 100% ML.
At the time the market was hung up on 200% new oak Chardonnays that you needed a chainsaw rather than a glass to get through. Ever since that first vintage we have been slowly reducing the oak profile of the wines, first through selection of French coopers that imparted less vanilla and butter flavors and selection of ML bugs that produced very little of the butter flavor. By 2000 we were starting to ferment part of our Chardonnay in stainless then blending the stainless and barrel fermented fractions to complete the wine. We have continued to lessen the oak impact on our estate Chardonnay and the 2004 vintage represents 50% stainless fermentation with no ML blended with 50% barrel fermented in all French oak barrels from 5 different coopers (down from about a dozen) with 100% ML, of which 1/3 of the barrels were new.
But that’s not the whole story, we have also sorted the coopers for the barrels to those that produce more mineral, flint and toasty flavors, eliminating those that were more dominate vanilla and butter flavors, the result is wine that shows more of the red apple and tropical flavors supported by mineral and and slight toasty notes. Our estate Chardonnay has continued down the same trend and is now 65% tank fermented with no ML and 35% barrel fermented with 100% ML and about 30% new French Oak from 2 coopers (the majority of the barrels are Latour). We also have continued to make a small lot of Chardonnay from the same fruit that is called Block 5 Chardonnay and uses 100% new oak (all Latour barrels) that produces an almost Chablis like mineral flavor with some toasty notes on the finish. Prior to the 2004 Chardonnay releases, most guests would assume that the estate Chardonnay with at the time almost half stainless and the remainder less than 50% new oak to show more oak than the Block 5 Chardonnay which has always been 100% new oak, but all the more minerally Latour French Oak barrels (aka Chateau Latour, they make there own barrels and sell a small number on allocation).
If you’re one of those Kendall Jackson-type folk – I do beleive there is professional help available now to help get that oak-plank off your tongue.
Nose: Grapefruit skin, apple, pear, toasted marshmellow, elderberry, fresh pea gravel.
Taste: A slight toasted nuts component, hint if kiwi, pistachio, lemons, slight butter with obvious tropical fruits and light spice on the finish.
Keith nailed this wine – it’s an excellent bridge-wine for those who need to stop with the Kendall Jackson B.S. and get with the program. It’ll still have some of the toastiness those folks think they like yet introduce them to much more of the gorgeous fruit flavors of the chardonnay grape.
If you love chardonnay, buy more of the budgeted wines and want to taste some excellent fruit from Red Mountain, then go out today and snag a bottle or two of this wine.
This is my opinion, however, you really need to try this wine and form your own – remember, it’s all about embracing your own palate, not mine.
I’d easily pair this with the following foods:- Shrimp scampi
– Classic Ceasar salad
– Dried fruits with stinky cheeses and nuts
– Chicken parmesan
– Fetucinni Alfredo