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Saintsbury Chardonnay (375ML half-bottle) 2000
Soil composition plays an equal role in the quality of the wines. Carneros soils tend to be dense, and shallow, with low to moderate fertility. Chardonnay grown in Carneros is typically ripe with flavor profiles that range from citrus and tropical fruit flavors to lovely, more subtle stone fruits, like peach and nectarine.
At Saintsbury, the Chardonnay is fermented in French oak barrels and aged sur lie for about eight months. Thirty percent of these barrels are new; the balance has been used once or twice before. During the aging process, the barrels are stirred (batonnage) to increase yeast contact for added richness. The wine also completes malolactic fermentation in the barrel, which can add roundness to the mouthfeel and complexity to the aroma.
Saintsbury has asked the question "to filter or not to filter" Chardonnay since the 1992 vintage. Following the success of a small "unfiltered" bottling of the 1993 vintage, we have chosen to bottle each subsequent vintage without filtration. The wines show much more vibrant fruit character and rich mouthfeel, particularly in the first year of release, than their filtered predecessors.
The 2000 vintage was no disappointment after the superior 1999. This vintage has brighter fruit, is fresh and lively with similar weight as the 1999, and while enjoyable now, will benefit from cellaring.
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. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.
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.