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2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay Paso Robles

The 2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay, Paso Robles will fool your friends. After tasting this wine blind within a flight of California Chardonnays, I poured it blind for a couple of my friends. I gave them no hints as to what it was or where it was from. They both pegged it as Chardonnay. One of them, the beverage manager at a prominent San Francisco restaurant, felt the complexity, restrained fruit, good acidity and leesy flavors was indicative of white Burgundy. He was confident that this was not a California wine. My other friend is not a wine professional but has a great palate and has been a white Burgundy enthusiast and collector for decades. He agreed that it was unlikely to be a California wine, but was adamant it was not from Burgundy. He felt that the fruit was too ripe for a Chardonnay from that region.

Of course it is a California wine. But, while neither of my friends were able to identify the origin of the wine, their analyses were correct. This is a very good Chardonnay, but not one that is of the style most people associate with California. I also poured them, blind, the 2008 Justin Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles. Between the two wines, my friends and I have come away very impressed with Justin’s ability to make interesting and elegant white wines.

The Chardonnay’s nose is complex and developing, but restrained. It’s aromas don’t leap out of the glass and shout. The wine lets you approach it. Upon doing so, I found green apple, mineral, white flowers, some charred wood and a bit of rubber. The wine is devoid of butter as it did not undergo any malolactic fermentation. And the use of French oak and sur lie aging mean the oak aromas are delicate and complimented by the yeasty scents I identified as rubber.

The 2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay is not full-bodied. It is by no means thin, there is a richness, but it doesn’t have that creamy, mouth-coating feel one gets with many Chardonnays. This one is lean and serious. There’s plenty of acidity on the palate and the alcohol is in check. I tasted apple skin, mineral, hints of citrus and stone fruit, and a touch of smoke.

People associate California Chardonnay with full-bodied wines that ooze vanilla, juicy stone fruit, tropical fruit, butter, etc. If that’s what you crave, this wine is not for you. It’s a very good wine, but understated and speaks more to the vineyard from which it came than the barrels or winemaking processes used. The grapes for this Justin Chardonnay comes from old vines on a hillside in west Paso Robles. They roots are set in limestone and the vines are cooled by ocean breezes. Vineyard workers trained the leafy vines to keep the grapes from getting too much sun. Any grape clusters not up to snuff were removed well before harvest.

The 2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay, Paso Robles is a very good wine. If you like wines of subtle complexity and good acidity, this one may be for you. Serve it with firm white cheeses (like Parmigiano or Comté, not Cheddar) or filet of Sole with a delicate butter-leek sauce. Drink now through 2012. Highly Recommended.


2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay, Paso Robles
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2016
Retail Price: $26.25
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Oak: Fermentation and 8 months sur lie aging in 100% new French oak barrels
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.5%

I purchased this wine for review.

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