What a fabulous winetasting we had this past Saturday on the Island of Maui. Here were some of the highlights/new releases.
2010 Au Bon Climat Chardonnays
I have been a fan of Au Bon Climat wines for many, many years. Owner/winemaker Jim Clendenen championed the Santa Barbara appellation & helped usher its wines on to the world stage.
His wines have always pushed the envelope & stylistically lied somewhere between California & Burgundy….AND in a much more elegant, refined, BALANCED manner. It wasn’t that long ago when the Au Bon Climat wines were considered as “lacking”….. when to me his wines were about purity, refinement & balance. I am so glad that today, the trends are changing & there are more & more winemakers who seek “In Pursuit of Balance”, which is what Clendenen & his wines have always been about! Having said that, these two 2010’s are some of the VERY best Chardonnays I have ever had from this iconic winemaker & winery. The 2010 Los Alamos Vineyard was where Au Bon Climat really started in 1982. Of the 500 acres, this bottling comes from the wind pounded hilltop…. is barrel fermented (75% new oak), & sees 1 year sur lie. It is really a pretty, classy, tasty & delicious, amazingly priced Chardonnay. 2010 “Nuits Blanches” is Au Bon Climat’s flagship Chardonnay….or as they say at their winery, the Grand Cru of their portfolio. The 2010 is a monumental wine….WOW….which is produced from 56% Bien Nacido “K” Block (planted in 1973 on its own roots); & 44% Dijon clones (76 & 96) from Jim’s own Le Bon Climat vineyard across the river. The wine spent 18 months in 100% new Francois Freres barrels. Put this one away in the cellar for at least 14 years (The 2004, for instance is still a baby & needs considerable more time).
2011 Maestracci Rose “E Prove”
This DRY, masculine, hearty, rustic Rose comes from the rugged Island of Corsica, off the tip of southern France. This winery, located in the granite soiled high elevation foothills of Monte Grossa, inland from Calvi, where the days are 100 degrees AND the sea winds really cool the nights down into the 50’s/60’s. The cepage is 50% each of two indigenious, RED grape varieties–Nieullucio & Sciaccarellu….direct pressed (no saignee here)….& fermented in stainless steel with NO ML. This kind of full flavored PINK wine is well suited for more hearty, vegetable, braised foods.
2011 Neyers Pinot Noir “Placida Vineyard”
As I have mentioned to my wine friends over the past 15 or so years, Neyers has been consistantly producing some of the VERY best wines out of California. It started with the SENSATIONAL 1992 Merlot……then the GAME CHANGING 1993 Chardonnay….and now with new age winemaker Tadeo Bouchardt the winery is in FULL swing, churning out standout after standout. Here is their latest adventure….Russian River Pinot Noir….Joseph Swan selection…done with 20% stems & aged in 40% new oak….at least technically. For me, this is absolutely delicious, round, pretty, lovely, graceful, classy Pinot……which one glass of……will never be enough!!!
2010 Drew Family Pinot Noirs
Jason Drew is another one of those new age winemaking phenoms crafting SENSATIONAL wines year in & year out. His wines epitomize loveliness & deliciousness. The 2010 Pinot Noir “Talfryn & Calder” is a blend of 3 Anderson Valley bench vineyards– 48% Balo (clones 777 & 828); 12% Wiley (own rooted Pommard & 777) & 40% Valenti (667), 1400 feet elevation, 6 miles from the ocean. 1/3 wild yeast fermented, 30% whole cluster, 11 months in French oak (15% new). 309 cases produced…of this lovely, lovely Pinot!!! The 2010 Pinot Noir “Weir Vineyard” (a scant 98 case production) comes from a steep southeast sloping vineyard right outside the Anderson Valley proper at 850 feet elevation. I remember this vineyard was originally planted for Burt Williams (the iconic founding winemaker of his namesake Williams & Selyem winery). The 15 acres is planted to 2A, Rochioli & old DRC selections. The 2010 was wild yeast fermented, 30% stem inclusion & spent 11 months in French oak (25% new). While the “Talfryn & Caulder” smells & tastes California, Weir in on the way to Burgundy in terms of earthy, rustic character & firmer structure, while still having deliciousness & balance.
2010 Anthill Farms Syrah “Sonoma Coast”
This dynamic, winemaking trio & their wines are on fire right now. The best way I can describe this wine is to say this is a Sonoma Coast Syrah crafted by a Pinot specialist. The 2010 is a blend of Peters (877, Chapoutier, 470…& 3% Viognier) & Campbell Ranch (clone 877)….wild yeast fermented, 28 day fermentation..2/3’s whole cluster & then aged in OLD French oak. It has lots of dark character & flavors….& is meaty, earthy, peppery, yet, very elegant, seamless, suave & classy. Kudos, guys!!!!