Babcock Top Cream Chardonnay 2018
Last year I mentioned how it was a happy/sad feeling that I had while writing my notes for the 2017 Top Cream. I was happy because that wine was as good as any Chardonnay I had ever bottled in 35 years, and I was very proud of it. I was sad because my vineyard that historically produced Top Cream was dying from Pierce’s disease, and that the 2017 might very well be the last Estate Grown Chardonnay that I would produce in my life time. I also mentioned at that point that my next challenge would be find a vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills that would be worthy of inheriting the Top Cream moniker for a single-vineyard Chardonnay that could stand next to The Limit. At the time I also mentioned that I thought that vineyard might be Donnachadh, because, like my Estate Top Cream vineyard, the Chardonnay at Donnachadh grows in a very sandy soil, and I thought this might express a characteristic minerality that was similar to what we all loved when we drank all those past Top Creams of yesteryear. Well, what can I say; every now and then nature throws you a bone.This wine is stunning. It is seamlessly sewn together. It is weighty, and at the same time, nimble. After 9 months on its lees in the delicately toasted Oak crafted by Burgundy’s Gerome Fouailly, the nose is of a creamy honeysuckle and baked vanilla brioche. The fruit is hard to pin down exactly. I keep asking myself, “Is that tropical? Or is that citrus? Or, is that maybe stone fruit?” What I do know is that it’s mesmerizing. The texture is fat, but the beautifully balanced acidity whisks it off of your palate as you swallow, leaving you with a feeling on your tongue of an energized resin of terroir that, yes, does remind me of Top Cream’s past. As I write these notes, it is the happy without the sad. Indeed it looks like Donnachadh will be a fine heir to the Top Cream designation.
A superior source of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills is the coolest, westernmost sub-region of the larger Santa Ynez Valley appellation within Santa Barbara County. This relatively new AVA is unquestionably one to keep an eye on.
The climate of Sta. Rita Hills is a natural match for Chardonnay and Pinot noir, thanks to the crisp ocean breezes and well-drained, limestone-rich calcareous soil. Here, grapes ripen just enough, while retaining brisk acidity and harmonious balance.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.