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Jekel Gravelstone Chardonnay 2011
Jekel Vineyards finds its roots in the early days of Monterey County’s burgeoning wine industry. Founded in 1972 by pioneering grape grower Bill Jekel, the label was instrumental in establishing Monterey as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. The combination of ancient dirt (a result of the vineyards’ location on an ancient alluvial plain) and the unique soil composition (depleted soil, studded with cobblestones) creates a distinctive starting point for the vine.
Today, Jekel is still synonymous with the cool-climate, coastal vineyards of Monterey, where Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir grapes develop their signature depth of flavor and bright acidity. Each sip reflects the extraordinary terroir of this ocean-side region.
Named after the dramatic, seasonal river of rain and snowmelt that cuts through the upper elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Arroyo Seco AVA extends east from the resultant mountain gorge, and into the rural and warm Salinas Valley. During the growing season, cool and damp Pacific Ocean air penetrates the gorge and flows into the valley, creating a cool evening respite for vineyards after a hot summer day. This natural water-release has also created a subterranean aquifer, which helps set the foundation of the AVA's boundaries and supplies the vineyards with water.
Arroyo Seco was actually home to the first commercial vineyard in California, called Mission Ranch, which was owned and propogated by the Mirassou family in the 1960s.
Arroyo Seco is one of the oldest AVAs in California, its status granted in the early 1980s, and also remains one of its smallest.
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 practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy 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. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.