Giant Steps Chardonnay 2004
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
When John Coltrane split with Miles Davis in the late 50s, he wasted little time releasing his visionary Giant Steps album. Winemaker (and equally successful brewmaster) Phil Sexton was inspired by the album and Coltrane's foresight. When Sexton sold his Devil's Lair vineyard in Margaret River to relocate and replant in the Yarra Valley, he named his wine in Coltrane's honor. Sexton chose Yarra Valley because of his admiration for the long aging and fine boned wines produced by the new generation of wine growers reestablishing this historic wine region. Giant Steps has forged a reputation for delivering some of Australia's most consistent, over-performing, varietal wines reflected by its ongoing, praise-worthy global acclaim including being a six-time Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the Year, 2013-2018. Giant Steps focuses primarily on the distinctive expression of single vineyard sites in the Yarra Valley. Grapes are drawn from estate and leased vineyards as well as fruit from long-term grower contracts, supported by strong relationships and meticulous supervision throughout the year
As the most important area of wine production in Victoria today, the Yarra Valley is most popular for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which account for over half of vineyard acreage. A gentle, rolling and rural region alongside the Margaret River, the Yarra Valley has a cool maritime climate with a lengthy growing season, perfect for these cool-climate varieties.
Two styles of Pinot Noir are possible here. The warmer Lower Yarra Valley with sandy, loam soils, produces plush and fruity Pinot Noir while the cooler, higher-elevation Upper Yarra Valley with soils of young red basalt, produces more angular and mineral-driven Pinot Noir.
Yarra Valley Chardonnay is among the best in Australia. To preserve the floral aromatics and fresh citrus flavors for which this area’s Chardonnay is so appreciated, time in barrel is restrained (though barrel fermentation is common). The best Yarra Valley Chardonnays display brilliant acidity, leesy characteristics, citrus, stone fruit and flavors of ginger and spice.
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.