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2002 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Reserve Carneros

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery is popular for both its wines and its beautiful facilities. Located in northern Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, about 9 miles north of Healdsburg), the Italianate winery and visitors’ center is surrounded by extensive gardens which include shrubs, flowers — including more than 10,000 tulips and daffodills — waterfalls, bridges, sculptures and over 2,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. Many of the plants have identifying markers, so a walk through the gardens is educational as well as relaxing.

Inside, on the ground floor, there is the “Villa Fiore” wine shop and tasting room which is open every day, 10am to 5pm. Free tasting coupons can be downloaded. Downstairs is the “Enoteca” which is a tasting bar for the reserve wines. It closes at 4:30pm and there is a tasting fee ($15 for four wines, refundable with $80 purchase). Neither tasting room requires reservations. There are also a number of fun and educational tours and private tastings available (by appointment only). For people who don’t have the time to get all the way out to the winery, Ferrari-Carano has a tasting room, “Seasons of the Vineyard,” in downtown Healdsburg as well.

For its wines, Ferrari-Carano uses fruit from a variety of locations including Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros, and Anderson Valley (Mendocino County). From these vineyards, they use more than 10 varieties of grapes to produce over 30 wines, ranging from dry to sweet.

The red and white wines are produced in separate wineries. Whites are made on the same site that houses the visitors’ center. The reds are produced in a gravity-flow winery which sits 1,200 feet up RockRise Mountain in Alexander Valley. That facility also features a 46,000 square-foot cave for fermentation and barrel aging.

While it’s dangerous to generalize too much about Ferrari-Carano’s wines overall — they make seven Chardonnay, each with a different profile — I think it’s fair to say that their wines tend to be lush, round and, in most cases, feature rich flavors derived from ripe fruit and oak. Their Reserve Chardonnay from Carneros is a good example of this style and breaking one of those out to accompany a dinner of lobster or king crab is a great start to an evening of decadence.

I guess I haven’t been eating enough crab and lobster, because I recently found a couple of the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Reserve in my cellar. People often say that voluptuous California Chardonnay aren’t good candidates for aging, mostly due to a lack of acidity. So, I popped a bottle the other night to see how it’s held up.

The 2002 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Chardonnay looks thick going into the glass and, once there, is gold with medium intensity. The nose is of medium-plus intensity and shows development with flavors of poached pear and baked apple complemented by vanilla and baking spices. This Carneros Chardonnay is very full-bodied on the palate with rich flavors including poached pear, lemon, baking spice, caramel, vanilla, butter and, in the back of ones mouth, gentle oak. The alcohol is perceptible in the body and texture, but is not hot at all. After the creamy and flavorful attack, there’s a hole in the mid-palate while the acidity works its way through the crowd. It succeeds and the long finish refreshes the palate while flavors of caramel and citrus persist.

For a Rubenesque California Chardonnay, the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Reserve has held up well. For those who like the style, it’s a lovely wine: rich, fruity with attractive levels of oak and butter. If you have some of this wine, I would drink it now, though if it has been well-stored, it should hold for another couple of years. Recommended.


2002 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Reserve Carneros
Rating: Recommended

Drink: Now - 2012
Retail Price: $32 for current release
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: Carneros

Aging: French oak
Alcohol: 14.4%

Closure: Cork

The wine above was purchased for review..

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