"Notes of orange blossoms and hazelnut oil along with tropical fruits and other assorted citrus are present in the 2003 Chardonnay Carneros. The wine is full-bodied with superb fruit, purity, and loads of length. Drink it over the next 2-4 years." -Wine Advocate
What a great year 2003 has turned out to be for California Chardonnay! While all of France was caught up in one of the warmest (and most
uncomfortable) summers in history, most of the Napa and Sonoma Chardonnay vineyards enjoyed a mild growing season, with moderate daytime temperatures and plenty of cool summer nights. That sort of weather can produce wines of flavor, balance and structure -- exactly what we've seen over the course of our barrel tastings the past several months. This year's Carneros District bottling includes fruit from the Sangiacomo Kiser Ranch, along with grapes from the lower elevation block of the El Novillero Ranch in the western foothills of the appellation. We've spiced things up a bit with the inclusion of grapes from the Yamakawa Vineyard, a breathtakingly beautiful parcel owned by a third generation grower family, just outside the town of Sonoma. Fondness for the great White Burgundy wines of France leads us to strive for a similar combination of fruit and minerality in our Chardonnay. We think we've succeeded here.
Begun in 1992 by Bruce and Barbara Neyers and their winemaking partner, Ehren Jordan, Neyers Vineyards produces 15,000 cases of wine annually. They rely primarily on Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the Neyers' 50-acre Conn Valley ranch farmed by Hugo and Lupe Maldonado. Additioanl grapes are purchased from a select group of growers, several of which are identified on the labels of wines produced from grapes they have grown. In 1999 Neyers purchased the 30-acre Sage Canyon Winery in the foothills east of Rutherford and have developed that facility for their entire production that also includes Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel and Chardonnay.
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Technically a part of Napa Valley, the Carneros region straddles both Sonoma & Napa counties. It's the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country unto itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.