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2010 Donati Family Sorelle per Sempre Central Coast Unoaked Chardonnay

Donati Family Vineyards produced their first wines from the 2003 vintage. Much of the fruit comes from their own vineyard in the Paicines AVA which the Donati’s purchased in 1998. That AVA is in the northeastern San Benito County lowlands where it’s cooled at night by sea air rushing inland toward the Central Valley. In addition to Chardonnay, Donati Family grows Pinot Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

2010-donati-chardThe Donati Family Vineyards tasting room is well-located in Templeton (south Paso Robles) very near the Cypher and Turley tasting rooms. It is open to the public every day, from 10am to 5pm. Templeton is a much more convenient spot for wine tasting than Paicines which is deep in farm country.

The 2010 Donati Family Sorelle per Sempre Unoaked Chardonnay is a good food wine. It is, of course, unoaked. It also avoids the excessive ripeness, sweetness and viscosity. The nose offers an attractive spectrum of fruit — green apple, pineapple and canned pear — and pretty white blossoms. The palate is dry and medium-plus in body with a smooth approach but gentle, lingering acidity. Pear flavors gradually give way to peach pit and grapefruit pith. It will be perfect for tajine-cooked chicken with green olives and preserved lemon, but will do just fine with creamy cheeses or green salads. Recommended.

2010 Donati Family Sorelle per Sempre Central Coast Unoaked Chardonnay
Rating: Recommended
Drink: Now through 2013
Bottling Date: September 26, 2011
Closure: Screwtop
Production: 1006 cases
Retail Price: $16.00

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: 100% Central Coast
Fermentation: Stainless steel
Aging: Stainless steel
Alcohol: 14.2%

The wine above was received as a sample from the winery.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Three White Wines from the Wagner Family, including 2009 Silver Unoaked Chardonnay

I recently received a six pack of Wagner Family wines. It was a sampler of their mainstream wines in 50ml bottles from TastingRoom.com. I believe the bottles do provide a very accurate representation of what you’d experience from a regular bottle. I’m offering reviews of the white wines today and will follow up with the reds tomorrow.

2010-mer-soleil-silver2009 Mer Soleil “Silver” Unoaked Chardonnay

If you’re tired of oaky Chardonnay, but don’t want to give up the rich body and bold ripe fruit of California’s most popular white, Mer Soleil Silver may be for you. It is medium lemon-green in the glass with a nose that offers loads of fruit — green apple, ripe peach, pear and pineapple — accented by honeysuckle and mineral. The wine is nearly full-bodied on the palate with attention-grabbing flavors of sweet pear, grapefruit and mineral. The wine starts smooth and almost creamy in the mouth but the acidity builds steadily to provide a clean, juicy finish. Serve Mer Soleil Silver chilled with seared scallops, fried chicken or a caprese salad. Highly Recommended.

Drink: Now through 2013
Release Date: July, 2011
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $22.00
Winemaker: Charlie Wagner II
Blend: Chardonnay
Origin: Santa Lucia Highlands
Fermentation: Concrete tanks
Aging: Concrete tanks
Alcohol: 14.8%

[Photo at right shows the 2010 vintage, but the wine tasted was in fact 2009.]

 

2008 Mer Soleil Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands

That the traditional Mer Soleil Chardonnay does not eschew oak is obvious even from its color, a deep, bright gold. This is a very aromatic wine. Vanilla and oak rise from the glass, followed by yellow apple, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, candied ginger and honeysuckle. The full-bodied palate is replete with more yellow apple, pineapple, tropical fruit, cinnamon and hints of mandarin orange. This is a powerfully happy wine but has enough acidity to avoid being cloying or gooey. Drink it on the cool side with grilled salmon or chicken under a fruit salsa. Highly Recommended.

Drink: Now through 2015
Release Date: August, 2010
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $32.00
Winemaker: Charlie Wagner II
Blend: Chardonnay
Origin: Santa Lucia Highlands
Fermentation: Barrel Fermented, Partial malolactic
Aging: French oak
Alcohol: 14.5%

 

2009 Conundrum White Wine Blend

The 2009 Conundrum is beautifully floral. Jasmine and peach blossom are front and center with orange marmalade, yellow apple, pineapple and tropical fruit adding depth and complexity. The palate is viscous and approaching off-dry. Flavors are the inverse of the nose with fruit taking the lead: pineapple, tropical fruit, yellow apple and citrus. Honeysuckle and marmalade add interest. This is a wine that will go well with acidic or spicy foods. It’s perfect for Thai curries or coconut soup with pineapple and chicken. Highly Recommended.

Drink: Now through 2014
Release Date: September, 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Retail Price: $22.00
Winemaker: John Bolta
Blend: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Muscat
Origin: California: Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties
Fermentation: Stainless steel
Aging: Stainless steel and French oak, new and used
Alcohol: 13.5%

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2008 Suacci Carciere Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard

Suacci Carciere is low-production wine label owned by John Suacci and Andy Carciere. It presently offers three wines: an estate Pinot Noir, a rosé of Syrah and estate Pinot Noir, and the Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay. Suacci Carciere doesn’t have a tasting room with regular open hours. However, they are open for tasting at the Suacci vineyard by appointment. The vineyard, planted only to Pinot Noir, is located in the southernmost tip of the Russian River Valley AVA, not far from Sebastopol.

The head winemaker for Suacci Carciere is Ryan Zepaltas. He has his own eponymous wine label too, but is probably best known as the assistant winemaker for Siduri. In the past, he made the wines for Suacci Carciere at Vinify, a Santa Rosa custom crush. However, now that the Siduri winery has moved into a new, larger facility, the Suacci Carciere wines are made there.

For this review, I tasted the 2008 Suacci Carciere Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard blind with two other Chardonnay from the general vicinity. One, in fact, was the 2008 Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard wine reviewed here yesterday. The other was a $30 Sonoma Coast blend from another winery. That narrow of a blind tasting doesn’t guarantee complete objectivity by any means, but it’s an interesting exercise nonetheless.

I was able to immediately single out the blend as being an outlier in the group. So were those tasting the wines with me, who knew only that the three wines were each California Chardonnay. The fruit in the blend was riper, more oak was used and the wine had been blended to be a yummy by-the-glass offering rather than a complex and age-worthy wine. Being in the company of the Suacci Carciere and Littorai wines made the oak and butter in the blend stand out all the more.

The two 2008 Chardonnay from the Heintz Vineyard were birds of a feather in many respects, but there were also very clear differences. The Suacci Carciere Chardonnay had more acidity, but also fuller body. It’s texture was a measure creamier than the Littorai, and it’s sur lie- aging flavors stronger. Both are very good wines.

The 2008 Suacci Carciere Chardonnay is pale lemon-gold in the glass with aromas of aged Brie cheese, dried apple, mild baking spice, fresh yeast, and dried oak. It is creamy and full-bodied on the palate with winning flavors of apple, lemon pith, Brie and oak. Leesy minerality develops for the long finish. The wine’s acidity stands out just a bit now, suggesting that it will be even better with another year or so in bottle. Drink now through 2017. Highly Recommended.

2008-Suacci-Carciere-Chardonnay

2008 Suacci Carciere Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2017
Production: 200 cases
Release Date: late 2010
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: 48.00

Winemaker: Ryan Zepaltas

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: Charles Heintz Vineyards, Sonoma Coast/Russian River Valley

Aging: 11 months in French oak, 33% new

Alcohol: 13.8%

The wine above was purchased for review at the winery.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

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

2008 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard

Littorai is a small family-owned and operated winery located west of Sebastopol, California in the Sonoma Coast AVA. They offer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made from their biodynamically-farmed estate vineyards and from a few other high-quality sites. Ted Lemon, who owns Littorai with his wife Heidi, also serves as winemaker.

Ted-Lemon
Ted Lemon of Littorai Wines
- March 16, 2011. Photo: Fred Swan

Named 2010 Chronicle Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Lemon is well-known for being the first American to be responsible for winemaking at an estate in Burgundy. He has now spent four time as long making wine in California as he did in Burgundy though. And Lemon doesn’t try to replicate French wine with Californian grapes. However, his style does focus on expressing terroir through relatively cool climate fruit, rather than on producing viscous wines with super-ripe fruit. Likewise, he uses oak barrels and lees aging to enhance flavor and texture but does not allow their flavors to become dominant.

If you have plans to be in the Sebastopol area, I recommend trying to pay Littorai a visit. It is appointment only, but offers a brief, yet interesting, tour of the vineyard followed by an extensive tasting of current releases. You will learn a lot about biodynamics, the terroir of their estate vineyards and their winemaking philosophy. The winery building itself is unique too. Designed to minimize its environmental impact, its straw bale walls help maintain steady temperatures throughout the year.

The Charles Heintz Vineyard is situated just outside the town of Occidental (Sonoma Coast AVA). It has long been a highly-sought after source for Chardonnay grapes. In addition to Heintz’ own label and Littorai, wineries using their fruit include Freeman, Flowers, DeLoach and Williams-Selyem. See also my review of the Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay from Suacci Carciere.

The 2008 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard is light lemon-green in the glass with generous aromas of spiced yellow apple, lemon, St. André triple-cream cheese and oak. In the mouth, the wine is dry and has medium-plus body with texture coming from both light, barrel-derived tannins and sur lie aging. The wine is fresh, but not mouthwatering and a offers long finish. Flavors are of lemon, yellow apple, oak and woody spice. It is a very good Chardonnay, but not in the stereotypically Californian style.

This Chardonnay will be do nicely as an apertif or served with soft cow’s or sheep’s milk cheeses, poached chicken or lobster. It will also hold up well to light cream sauces. The wine will gain further nuance with bottle age and might benefit slightly from decanting if consumed now. Drink from now through 2018. Highly Recommended.

2008-Littorai-Chard-Charles-Heintz

2008 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2018
Release Date: Summer, 2010

Retail Price: ~ $75.00
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: Charles Heintz Vineyards, Sonoma Coast

Alcohol: 13.7%

Closure: Cork

The wine above was purchased for review at the winery.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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.

09-alfaro-chardonnay

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.

IFollow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

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