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2006 Staglin Family Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Rutherford, Napa Valley

Many of the wineries in the central and northern AVAs of Napa Valley choose to focus their estate vineyards on red wines and Sauvignon Blanc. They typically source their Chardonnay grapes from vineyards in Carneros and sometimes the Sonoma Coast. There are some, however, that believe their own vineyards to be sufficiently well-sited for growing Chardonnay. Staglin Chardonnay are routinely among the best of those coming from Rutherford.

When growing Chardonnay in areas where there is plenty of sun and warmth, there is a danger that sugar levels will become too high and acidity too low. Care has to be taken at every step to ensure a balanced and refreshing wine. At Staglin, the site itself starts them off on the right foot. Their vineyards are nestled at the base of the Mayacamas range. This means that the vines get the cooling morning fog which burns off under relatively gentle late-morning and afternoon sun. However, the harsh summer sun of the late-afternoon and early evening is blocked by the mountains. While fruit on the valley floor east of Hwy. 29 is baking, the Staglin Chardonnay is already starting to cool down.

When the grapes are just ripe enough, they are picked in the early morning. [Sugar levels of grapes go up and down throughout the day, based on temperature and exposure to sun. Early morning picking gets them at their freshest.] The grapes are whole-cluster pressed, which substantially reduces the release of harsh flavors and tannins from skin and seeds. During the winemaking, malolactic fermentation is discouraged to maintain as much crispness as possible. Softening is achieved gradually through aging in French oak.

I’ve been collecting Staglin wines in case quantities for a while now, both red and white. I recently opened a 2006 Chardonnay to see how it was doing and to enjoy it with a seafood dinner. The wine was clear and bright with a moderately intense lemon-gold color. The nose included peach and gentle baking-spice derived from the French oak, but the primary aroma was ripe pear. On the palate, the wine was lush and full-bodied yet fresh. The pear, peach and spice were present in the flavors, but I also found golden apple and some juicy tropical fruit, especially cooked pineapple. The finish was very long. The 2006 Staglin Chardonnay was good with my fresh dungeness crab, but would have gone at least as well with king crab legs, lobster, tender chicken breast or salmon. Drink now through 2012. Highly Recommended.


2006 Staglin Family Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2012
Retail Price: N/A, $75 for the current, 2008, vintage
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Winemaking: whole cluster pressed, malolactic fermentation “inhibited”

Aging: 10 months on lees with batonnage in 100% French oak, 65% new

Alcohol: 14.6%

Closure: Cork

The reviewed wine was purchased upon release. It was not tasted blind.

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