Small Vines Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Only in high-school, Paul started as a bus-boy learning about wine from passionate restaurateurs. He embraced wine with an unquenchable desire to read and taste everything he could-and eventually worked his way up to the assistant wine buyer position at John Ash and Company (in 1993 until 95). As a very young wine steward, he was given many opportunities to taste both California classic wines and wines from all over the world. One night, his life would change forever, when a person dining alone offered him a taste of a very rare Burgundy. This ethereal experience, with one of the world’s greatest wines, sent him on a quest for more knowledge and forever fueled his drive to make captivating wines like this. He launched into self-study, and soon discovered that some of the greatest Pinot Noirs in the world come from a mature, small vines.
Soon after this experience, Paul and Kathryn Sloan met and fell in love in nature. As adventurous partners in rock climbing and mountain biking, we took a sabbatical and traveled the country only to return home to one of the most beautiful places on earth, Sonoma County, California. It is here, where Paul’s family has been for three generations (and now four), that we embarked upon even bigger adventures. Paul returned to college to get his Viticulture degree, and simultaneously went to work for one of the most respected winegrowers in the county, Warren Dutton of Dutton Ranches.
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 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.