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Neyers Carneros Chardonnay 2003
What a great year 2003 has turned out to be for California Chardonnay! While all of France was caught up in one of the warmest (and most uncomfortable) summers in history, most of the Napa and Sonoma Chardonnay vineyards enjoyed a mild growing season, with moderate daytime temperatures and plenty of cool summer nights. That sort of weather can produce wines of flavor, balance and structure -- exactly what we've seen over the course of our barrel tastings the past several months. This year's Carneros District bottling includes fruit from the Sangiacomo Kiser Ranch, along with grapes from the lower elevation block of the El Novillero Ranch in the western foothills of the appellation. We've spiced things up a bit with the inclusion of grapes from the Yamakawa Vineyard, a breathtakingly beautiful parcel owned by a third generation grower family, just outside the town of Sonoma. Fondness for the great White Burgundy wines of France leads us to strive for a similar combination of fruit and minerality in our Chardonnay. We think we've succeeded here.
Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. Its close proximity to the San Francisco Peninsula and the San Pablo Bay is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo Bay create a cooling effect ideal for producing wines with crisp acidity and balanced flavors.
This cooler pocket of California lends itself to growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and more recently, Old-World style Syrah. While more delicate than most wines from neighboring regions, these are firmly structured, complex, and full of flavor. Carneros is also an important source of sparkling wines made in the style of Champagne.
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.