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Relic Wine Cellars The Sage Chardonnay 2013
Relic was founded in Napa Valley in 2001 by husband and wife team Michael Hirby and Schatzi
Throckmorton, with a focus on historic winemaking techniques. Inspired by a love of Burgundy, they began making a small amount of Pinot Noir, and have since continued to mine history for old secrets in the making of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast as well as Rhone and Bordeaux varietals from the Napa Valley, where their hillside cave winery is located.
When highly natural, traditional methods such as indigenous yeast fermentation, whole-cluster
fermentation, extended lees ageing, minimal-intervention, etc. - are applied to California’s great terroirs, the resulting wines are world-class, complex, layered, and vibrantly aromatic. The diverse vineyard sources are tended with the utmost care, and are always grown to Relic’s specifications of yield, light exposure, irrigation, etc.
After gaining a degree in Philosophy from Colorado College, Michael worked for 2 years as a
sommelier. Before moving to Napa Valley., he spent an extended period tasting with winemakers in France, where he learned that some contemporary winemaking rules are meant to be broken, and his traditional approach became entrenched. Michael is currently the consulting winemaker for D.R. Stephens Estate, Husic Family Vineyards, Sarocka Estate, Wolf Family Vineyards, Flint Knoll, and MAZE, and was the consulting winemaker at Realm Cellars for 8 years.
Schatzi gained a degree in History from Northwestern before moving to Napa Valley in 1999 to work harvest. Her skills were soon recognized, and she has been busy ever since. Schatzi is the Business Manager for Behrens Family Winery, where she has been for 17 years.
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs all the way from the Mendocino County border, south to the San Pablo Bay. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the actual coastal vineyards, marked by marine soils, cool temperatures and saline ocean breezes—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, which are still heavily influenced by the Pacific but not quite with same intensity.
Contained within the appellation are the much smaller Fort Ross-Seaview and Petaluma Gap AVAs.
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.