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Shannon Ridge High Elevation Chardonnay 2014
Shannon Ridge is dedicated to crafting luscious, fruit-driven wines that express the distinct characteristics of fruit grown in the high valley region of Lake County, California. Family-owned and operated, Shannon Ridge was founded in 2001. The winery's vineyards hug the mountain rims along the south-east edge of High Valley AVA. Surrounded by dramatic landscapes and pristine wilderness, the story of High Valley is clearly visible from our property. At 2,200 feet, on top of the Terre Vermeille vineyard look to your south, you'll see the deep blue waters of Clear Lake, that provide cooling winds throughout our long summer days. Turn to the west, and you can distinguish where the lava flows give way to the alluvial fan of the ancient lake bed on the valley floor. And from the north, and you can feel the cold night winds from Snow Mountain and the peaks of the Mendocino National Forest.
A warm inland area just north of Napa Valley, Lake County represents a new frontier for California winemaking. While Prohibition halted viticulture here just as it did in so many California regions, winemaking activity remained fairly insignificant for a few decades longer than others. Finally in the 1990s Lake County Sauvignon blanc—uniquely savory and fruity—earned the appellation a renewed reputation.
Lake County is comprised of a handful of unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
Recently the Red Hills AVA, located within the boundaries of the Clear Lake AVA, has become the focus of some of Napa’s more respected growers. Its notable volcanic and obsidian-based soils could be the source of California’s next best Cabernet Sauvignons. Andy Beckstoffer, a leader in recognizing prime Napa Valley vineyard locales, has already invested heavily in the area.
The High Valley AVA sits northeast of Clear Lake. This warm area boasts multiple soil types allowing growers a lot of flexibility and experimentation with grape varieties. While Sauvignon blanc is a mainstay, this zone excels with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, as well as other less common varieties like Barbera and Tempranillo.
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.