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Stonestreet Gravel Bench Chardonnay 2009

Chardonnay from Sonoma County, California
  • RP93
  • WE93
14.3% ABV
  • RP95
  • WE93
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14.3% ABV

Winemaker Notes

As the name would suggest, although this site lies at a high elevation, its bench-like exposure allows a pronounced richness to develop in the grapes. Here on the gravel soils, aromas and flavors of baked apple, shortbread, warm spice and roasted almond open to a powerful, richly textured palate; all that generosity is held in check by the structural signature of the mountain - liquid minerality.

Critical Acclaim

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RP 93
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
All the Chardonnays are 100% Chardonnay aged in anywhere from 50% to 100% new French oak for nearly 11 months prior to being bottled. The Alexander Mountain Estate is a superb high elevation vineyard source and the Upper Barn (made famous by Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer in the decade of the nineties) is a true grand cru site for Chardonnay. The other blocks, which vary from 900 feet to a whopping 1,800 feet elevation, producing stunning Chardonnays that have abundant characteristics in common. As the scores indicate, my favorite is the 2009 Chardonnay Upper Barn simply because there is always a little more to this offering. From an 1,800 foot elevation, it reveals lots of honeyed pear, tropical fruit, brioche, nectarine and marmalade notes along with terrific acidity as well as richness. Moreover, little oak can be detected despite the fact that it (as well as its siblings) sees 50% new oak. A handful of these Chardonnays (Gravel Bench and Gold Run) see 100% new oak. Of the other 2009 Chardonnays, the Red Point, Broken Road, Bear Point and Gravel Bench are similar to the Upper Barn, with the Gravel Bench perhaps having a more flinty character and the Bear Point slightly more structure. The Gold Run and Solitude (both from vineyards planted at 1,000 feet) are dead-ringers for the Upper Barn. The only offerings that seemed somewhat lean, austere and closed are the Grandstone and the Windswept. All of these Chardonnays are capable of lasting 5-7 years, perhaps a decade or more in some cases. To reiterate, I don’t understand the point of making 9 separate Chardonnays when in fact there could be three distinct styles, the Upper Barn style, the Grandstone/Windswept style and the Gold Run/Bear Point style.
WE 93
Wine Enthusiast
Full-throttle Chardonnay, creamy and opulent, showing lemon custard, orange honey, buttered toast and cinnamon spice flavors, brightened with crisp, zesty acidity. Exceptionally rich and balanced, it's a beautiful wine for pairing with shellfish entrees.
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Stonestreet, Sonoma County, California
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In the autumn of 1989, Jess Jackson acquired the Zellerbach winery and renamed it in honor of his late father, Jess Stonestreet Jackson. Stonestreet quickly garnered international acclaim for their powerful reds and luscious whites.

Today, Stonestreet wines are undergoing a transformation, using fruit from Alexander Mountain Estate and new winemaking techniques. Alexander Mountain Estate, with lean, well-draining soils and cooler temperature, produces fruit with smaller berries and more intense color and flavor. Stonestreet is dedicated to fulfilling the promise of Alexander Valley's exceptional and distinctive vineyards. Traditional, Old World methods of hand harvesting, small barrel lot production, native yeast fermentation and bottling each wine unfiltered brings out the best in specific grape varieties and provides the quality framework for each Stonestreet wine.

Sonoma County

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Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa Valley, the region only produces about half the amount of wine but boasts both tremendous quality and variety. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, the wineries of Sonoma are appreciated by wine tourists for their friendliness and approachability. The entire county intends to become a 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.

Grape varieties are carefully selected to reflect the best attributes of their sites—Dry Creek Valley’s consistent sunshine is ideal for Zinfandel, while the warm Alexander Valley is responsible for rich, voluptuous Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are important throughout the county, most notably in the cooler AVAs of Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Carneros. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah have also found a firm footing here.


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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.

Perfect Pairings

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.

Sommelier Secret

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.

RGL0100917SX_2009 Item# 119680