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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. 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.