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Wine of the Day

2009 Alfaro Family Chardonnay Estate Santa Cruz Mountains

I picked this wine up at a local shop last week, intrigued by the shelf talker. It spoke about the new trend away from overly oaked and buttered Chardonnay. And there was a hint that this wine bears some resemblance to white Burgundy. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a $20 California Chardonnay.

I don’t recall having had an Alfaro Family wine before, certainly not in the past couple of years. The winery is small and, as the name suggests, family-owned. The Alfaro vineyards are in Corralitos in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, about four miles from the ocean and three miles northeast from the Rio Del Mar/Freedom Blvd exit on 101. The Howard Vineyard, which makes up the majority of this wine is located in Aptos near the proprietors’ home. There are 38 acres of vines in the estate vineyard, eight of which are certified organic. When the Alfaros acquired the land in 1997, it was an apple orchard.

The apple orchard connection is an amusing coincidence. The 2009 Alfaro Family Estate Chardonnay is a study in apples. Now, apple is not an unusual flavor for Chardonnay or white wines in general. Green apple flavors are common. A bit of apple skin or yellow apple is not unusual either. The malic acid present in wine before malolactic fermentation takes place is the same acid found in green apples, among other things. And there are many other flavor compounds shared by apples and white grapes.

However, this Alfaro Chardonnay would fit right in on Iron Chef: Apple. On the nose there is baked and mildly spiced apple, dried apple and apple skins along with dry wood, peach pit and some lactic notes. The palate featured both red and yellow apple, plus lemon, sweet spice and dried lemongrass. It’s dry on the palate with medium body and freshness that balances the fruit and alcohol but isn’t mouth-watering. The finish is of moderate length but clean.

The 2009 Alfaro Family Estate Chardonnay is good and exhibits more restraint in both oak and malolactic fermentation than many California Chardonnay. It was not as crisp and uninfluenced by oak as the shelf talker would have us believe, but that was written by the shop not the winery. And, clearly, with eight months of oak aging Richard Alfaro had no intent to make an unoaked Chardonnay. The wine didn’t particularly remind me of white Burgundy either. But why should it? It’s from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Let’s just enjoy things for what they are. The ’09 Alfaro Family Estate Chardonnay is a well-made, enjoyable wine and a celebration of apples. That’s good enough for me. Drink now through 2013. Recommended.


2009 Alfaro Family Chardonnay “A” Estate Santa Cruz Mountains
Rating: Recommended
Drink: Now through 2013
Release Date: July, 2010

Retail Price: $20
 (sold out at the winery, still available in stores)
Winemaker: Richard Alfaro
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: Santa Cruz Mountains; 66% Howard Vineyard, 22% Ryan Spencer Vineyard and 12% Lindsay Paige Vineyard

Aging: 8 months in French oak, 40% new

Alcohol: 14.2%

Closure: Cork
Production: 380 cases

The wine above was purchased for review.

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This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.