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Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2011
Napa Cellars has been making wine for more than 40 years in the Napa Valley, on its original property of 5 acres along Highway 29 in Oakville. Thankful to have been graced by prominent Napa families in its early days, such as the Franks and the Rombauers, Napa Cellars now paves its own path, building on the rich heritage to craft wines that are a classic, unmistakable interpretation of the Napa Valley. Napa Cellars now owns three vineyards: Vista Montone Vineyard is located in South Napa Valley, and provides the fruit for Napa Cellars Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Main Street Vineyard is located in St. Helena, Napa Valley, and provides the fruit for Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Salvador Vineyard is located in Oak Knoll AVA, north of Downtown Napa, and provides fruit for the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The founder of Napa Cellars, Charlie Woods, started a tasting room in a geodesic dome that still welcomes guests today. This warm and casual tasting room is the perfect first or last stop for any visitor to Napa. Conveniently located on Highway 29, the friendly tasting staff encourages wine novices and connoisseurs alike to try their well-worth-the price Napa Valley wines. The winemaker for Napa Cellars, Joe Shirley, grew up in Napa Valley but never became interested in wine until he crossed paths with an influential wine buyer in England. Upon returning home, Joe dove into the wine industry head first. Joe realized he was meant to live a life at the intersection of scientific precision and passionate artistry. This life exists now in the vineyard, in the cellar, and ultimately in the glass, where a sense of place-and his expression of that place, comes to life. “I don’t try to put a big winemaker signature on my wines,” Joe says. “The terroir of the vineyards here is so distinct, so extraordinary; I simply guide the wine toward the purest interpretation of the land.”
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
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.