Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay 2014
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1969, the Millers, a fifth generation California farming family, purchased this property. They also purchased an adjacent parcel which had been part of the original land grant, and reunited the two as Rancho Tepusquet, now comprising over two thousand acres. The original adobe remains as one of the few privately maintained adobes in California. In the early 1970's, it became clear to the Millers that the soils and climate were ideal for growing grapes, and they moved quickly to realize the full potential of the property. Premium varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were planted in this cool climate growing Region 1, boasting one of the longest growing seasons in the state.
Bien Nacido Vineyards is planted primarily to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Syrah. The original plantings came from stock grown by the University of California at Davis and grown on their own rootstock. Bien Nacido also has the distinction of being the first vineyard in California to grow cool climate Syrah.
It is the combination of the "terroir" of Bien Nacido Vineyards, the people who manage it, and the close relationships they have developed with others in the wine industry of the region that makes Bien Nacido Vineyards and the Santa Maria region unique in the wine industry.
The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to Tomas Olivera by Juan Bautista Alvarado, then Gobernador of Alta California. This grant covered nearly 9,000 acres ranging upward to the San Rafael Mountains from the Santa Maria Mesa, which bordered the Sisquoc and Cuyama Rivers. The ranch was generously watered by Tepusquet Creek, so called by the Chumash Indians to whom it meant "fishing for trout." Thomas Olivera sold Rancho Tepusquet in 1855 to his son-in-law Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros and daughter Martina. Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros started construction on an adobe in 1857 and moved to the ranch the following year. He and his wife raised horses, cattle, sheep, several grain crops, and grapes for the production of wine.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
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 practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
Tasting Notes for Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a dry, white wine. When Chardonnay grapes are planted on cool sites, the resulting wine's flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Perfect Food Pairings for Chardonnay
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Sommelier Secrets for Chardonnay
Since the 1980s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy this lighter style.