Nielson Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay 2015
The winery barrel ferments Chardonnay from select vineyards within the Santa Maria Valley appellation. Because this area is a touch cooler compared to others in Santa Barbara County, the wine has a bright acidity expressing stone fruits and hints of tangerine and wet stone.
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Nielson Wines pays homage to its namesake, Uriel J. Nielson, who in 1964 planted the first commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County, a region previously considered too cold to grow grapes. Known as a viticulture pioneer, Uriel didn’t heed warnings from neighboring farmers and didn’t flinch in his stance that Santa Barbara County could be one among the top winegrowing regions in the world. Today, five decades later, there are now more than 100 wineries and thousands of acres devoted to vineyards, producing wines recognized by critics worldwide for their amazing quality, uniqueness and compelling balance of flavor.
Nielson Wines continues in Uriel’s pioneering spirit, crafting ambitious wines that embody the freshness and vibrancy of the cool, coastal Southern California enclave. Each vintage, Winemaker Ryan Pace produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of the region’s most celebrated vineyard sites, with the original Nielson Vineyard serving as the backbone in most of the wines.
In the cellar, Ryan prefers to utilize small-lot winemaking techniques to showcase the nuances and character of each wine, such as hand pruning, block-by-block harvesting, barrel fermentations and lees stirring. These precise winemaking and vineyard practices are combined to create complex wines that embody the culture, lifestyle and flavor of Santa Barbara County.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
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.