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The early 1970s brought a revived interest in California wines, and the Estate became home to a number of small new wineries including Conn Creek Winery, Saintsbury, and Stratford Winery. In 1982, Parisians Jean and Sylviane Leducq established the Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery in Virginia. Their goal was to marry their Gallic passion for fine wine and food with American history. Under the direction of French enologist Jacques Boissenot, in 1987, the Leducqs purchased 7 acres of vineyard that were part of the original land tract belonging to W.W. Lyman.
In May 2001, the original stone winery and estate home built by Bernard Ehlers was purchased, thus reuniting the Estate. The stewardship of Ehlers Estate is now in the hands of the Leducq Foundation.
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.