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MacPhail Gap's Crown Chardonnay 2011
What defines MacPhail? Our little red wagon says it all. Family. Fun. Serious when we need to be (but not too much).
From the beginning, which isn’t all that long ago, we’ve believed that wine is art with a splash of science. Our first vintage was 2002, so you haven’t had a long time to get to know us. But we’re easy. We use traditional, old-world winemaking techniques with minimal intervention to deliver wines that are flavorful enough to tell you a lot about our exceptional vineyards in Sonoma County and Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. We forge strong partnerships with growers willing to join us in this ongoing adventure. Restless and curious, always searching to answer a simple question: what is Pinot Noir? Crafted by nature, nurtured by our hands.
The little red wagon that graces our label symbolizes timeless design and exceptional quality. We like the idea that kids play in wagons, and share simple joys. No reason we can’t as well. So we try not to take ourselves too seriously, even as we’re very serious about our wines.
Tim and Sabrina Persson take the long view as stewards of MacPhail Wines. After all, they are the fifth generation of the Hess family to watch over the family’s wineries. As Tim likes to say, take a peek in the wine rack at home and you’ll have no doubt how often MacPhail is a part of the family’s wine selections. It’s not uncommon to see Tim and Sabrina, along with the next generation – children Jasper and Yasmine – at the MacPhail Tasting Lounge @The Barlow. Be sure to say hello.
Matt Courtney has a simple goal as winemaker for MacPhail: capture the individuality of each vineyard site and let it express itself in your glass. His focus is the vineyard, and he has worked with many MacPhail growers for years. Celebrated for wines created for Arista, Marcassin and his own label, Ferren, he is as well known for his wizardry with Chardonnay as he is with Pinot Noir. Happily, MacPhail has room for both.
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs from the San Pablo Bay to the Mendocino County border. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the “true” Sonoma Coast, marked by high rainfall, marine soils, cool temperatures, and saline ocean breezes, from which one can actually see the ocean—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, creating a diversity of wine styles. Contained within the appellation is the much smaller and more focused Fort Ross-Seaview AVA.
Sonoma Coast is highly regarded for elegant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, increasingly, cool-climate Syrah, with high acidity, moderate alcohol, firm tannin, and fruit that is rarely overripe. One of the most favorable sites within the region is the Petaluma Gap, where a break in the coastal mountain range allows Pacific winds and fog to funnel through and cool the vineyards.
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.