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Dierberg Chardonnay 2010
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The Central Coast's cool-weather terroir is exemplified at the two estate vineyards that provide Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Dierberg Estate: the original Dierberg Vineyard in Santa Maria - planted in 1997 - and the newer Drum Canyon vineyard located farther to the south in the Santa Rita Hills. In both vineyards, cooling Pacific Ocean fog and breezes keep this sunny corner of California far cooler than one would imagine. This phenomenon favors crisp acidity and gentle ripening in classic Burgundian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
Dierberg's 160-acre vineyard outside the town of Santa Maria, and just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean, is planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It lies at the southern end of the Santa Maria Valley and is graced with gentle hillside slopes, sandy loam soils and western exposures. About one third of the vineyard is planted to Chardonnay, with the rest planted to Pinot Noir.
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’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.