Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay 2002
-Fred Holloway, Winemaker
Katherine's Chardonnay is hand-harvested from the 1,405-acre, family-owned Cambria estate. As expected from the consistency of Cambria's fruit, this vintage speaks boldly of Santa Maria Valley's ideal climate and vineyard conditions for growing Chardonnay. Formed from alluvial deposits of the Sisquoc River, Cambria's soil is gravelly and exceptionally well draining—restricting vine vigor to promote the growth of Chardonnay with lush, concentrated flavors. The maritime influences that funnel in from the Pacific Ocean, cloak the Santa Maria Valley in mild temperatures, extending the vineyard's growing season to provide ample time to balance the fruit's acid profile and develop optimal varietal characteristics.
In the vineyard, the development of Katherine's fruit sets the stage for our winemaking process and lays the foundation for flavor and quality. Cambria's vineyard management techniques, such as leaf thinning, allow more sunlight on the clusters for full, even ripening and evolution of concentrated character. In addition, irrigation is minimized to restrict vine vigor and focus the vine's energy on the grapes. Also, underdeveloped fruit is taken off the vines at verasion to promote the growth of densely flavored clusters. Together, these techniques ensure maximum quality in the Chardonnay before beginning the winemaking process.
At harvest, Katherine's Chardonnay grapes were gently whole-cluster pressed to capture the fresh flavors while avoiding any harsh tannins. Primary and secondary fermentation took place in French oak barrels to enhance oak spice integration. To heighten and balance the lush texture in the mid-palate and fruitful flavor profile, the wine was aged sur lies for a period of eight months before bottling.
Cambria Estate Winery sits on storied land. Originally planted in 1971, and brought into the Jackson family by Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke in 1986, Cambria’s land has been a premier producer of cool climate wines for more than 45 years. Situated on one of the only transverse valleys on the West Coast, Cambria’s vineyards are planted on the Santa Maria Bench where cool, sea air funnels in unobstructed from the nearby Pacific Ocean, blanketing the vines in maritime fog. With one of the longest growing seasons in California, the unique climate at the Estate produces “refrigerated sunshine” that develops concentrated flavors in the grapes making Cambria ideally situated for cultivating Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals.
Every Cambria wine produced is a single vineyard offering and certified sustainable. The two primary vineyards on the Estate are Julia’s and Katherine’s. Named for Jess and Barbara’s daughters, these vineyards are marked by depth of character, and a history of acclaim – most recently when Wine & Spirits named Cambria Winery one of the Top 100 Wineries of 2020. Each vineyard holds within it ancient soils that include 14 different soil types, while each block contributes different flavor and structural qualities to the wines. Additionally, the 17 clonal varietals on the property are a study in diversity. With a commitment to craftsmanship and artistry, winemaker Jill Russell and the tremendous winemaking and vineyard teams bring to life the legacy of the land through each 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 Central Coast wines like 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 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.