The highly acclaimed Durell Vineyard was “an old cattle ranch at the base of the southwestern hills of Sonoma Valley, which stretches across 3 appellations–Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast & Carneros“. Ed Durell was the original owner (1979) but sold it to the Price family in 1998.
The vineyard is 30 miles away from the Pacific Ocean (west)…..10 miles from the northern reaches of San Francisco Bay (south)…..& to the north a 2400 mountain.
Geologically, the soils are rocky-clay-loam. Yes, this vineyard is well renown for its rocks….which many of its winemaking fans say creates a distinct stoniness in the resulting wine.
I believe this vineyard is the source for many unqiue Chardonnays, more so than other grape varieties. The wines have a thickness/viscosity, a very tropical quality & innate bitterness, which really needs to be managed both in the vineyard & in thye winery, if you one strives for a bigger window for food friendliness. For me the true benchmark Chardonnay from this vineyard to date was the 2006 Patz & Hall.
2 days ago, we were fortunate to taste TWO versions of Durell Chardonnay. There was certainluy nothing shy or demure about either.
Star winemaker, Brian Loring, wanted to make a buttery, toasty, oaky goddess from this vineyard in 2011. The wine was whole clsuter pressed, barrel fermented, full malolactic & spent 10 months in equal amounts of French & Americak oak (of which 50% was new). Yes, it has that tropical aromatics, is rich, lush, ripe & showy.
2011 Witching Stick Chardonnay “Durell Vineyard”
Here is the first commercial Chardonnay release from Van Williamson. Where Van typically works with Anderson Valley/Mendocino fruit, in 2011 he was able to get some Wente clone from Durell. The crop was small, with low vigor & small berries. The 2011 was wild yeast fermented (NO SO2 at pressing), whole cluster pressed & saw 50% new French oak. To me…….a glorious fruit bomb.
Here is what the Vanimal had to say–“This wine has it all in spades. The first aroma is that of wet granite stones after a rainfall, next comes nectarines mixed with butterscotch candies and creme brulee, then the scent of spiced apple pie ala mode. No, I do not have a sweet tooth! The most remarkable thing about the flavors is the weight and texture on the palate. So much cream and viscosity that you wonder how a white wine could have so much body. Then, all that weight disappears and finishes light and crisp due to the high minerality. The oak mingles with spiciness from the grapes creating a nice spiced vanillin theme throughout the wines evolution in the glass.
The low acidity and high PH associated with the vineyard results in a lot of manipulation in most cellars. But the natural high phenolic level in the fruit and the unique amount of minerals on the palate allows the wine structure to hold up without acidulation. The wine has an apparent taste of tartness without actually having much acidity. Not adding acid to a Chardonnay with 3.92 PH is hard for most professionally trained winemakers. I am glad I left everything alone and allowed the wine to make a loud statement “.