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This red shows such beautiful and ripe aromas of blackberries, orange peel, hazelnuts, and tropical fruits. It's full-bodied, with superb texture of polished tannins that are velvety. The length last for minutes. It's muscular yet elegant. It flexes it muscle yet pulls them back. What gorgeous tone to this young red. Try in 2020.
Good, deep ruby-red. Deep, brooding but lively aromas of raspberry, strawberry, violet, licorice and minerals, plus an element of chocolate mint. Bright and fresh on entry, then shows a steely, austere quality to the strawberry, raspberry, tar and iodine flavors. Distinctly less floral and forward than the 2009. Strongly mineral on the long, pure back end, with ultrasmooth tannins; in fact, I would say that Lafleur's are the finest, most polished tannins of all in 2010. This is destined to be very long-lived. Incidentally, Baptiste Guinaudeau couldn't recall if any previous vintage of Lafleur had such a high percentage cabernet franc. My early candidate for wine of the vintage, along with Latour.
Barrel Sample: 96-99 Points
Packed, with a charcoal frame and hints of alder and mesquite offering an impressive, aromatic profile, while flavors of crushed plum, warm linzer torte and blackberry preserves form the massive core. Dense, chewy and velvety, this features a riveting iron note and enticing tobacco accents that help to expand and lengthen the finish. Best from 2020 through 2040.
As for the Lafleur itself, their 2010 is another fabulous wine from this extraordinary terroir. Composed of 62% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot (identical to what I saw early on), this wine is tightly knit and built for the long haul. Neither is it as exuberant nor as opulent as the 2009 was showing at a similar stage of its life. In stylistic terms, it is more along the lines of a more modern-day 2000 . Deep ruby/purple, with sweet black raspberry and black cherry fruit as well as hints of forest floor, licorice and crushed rock, this wine has superb texture and a full-bodied mouthfeel – then the tannins kick in. This is a powerful, backward wine, and despite its elegance and precision, it needs at least a decade of cellaring. It is slightly more reserved and tannic than I remember it from barrel, but it is locked and loaded with potential. Forget it for a decade a drink it over the following 30-40 years.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district...
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely east to west starting near the coast, allowing Pacific Ocean air to funnel through and cool the vineyards. This allows grapes to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, this creates 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 proven quite successful in the region as well. Many vineyards here are owned by growers who sell their grapes to wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottle from different wineries. Bien Nacido is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes...
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.