- Item #: i_200430Bottle Size: 750mlThe Los Alamos Vineyard is roughly 500 planted acres, most of which is on flat bottomland of the Los Alamos Valley that is sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley appellations. The best grapes from this vineyard are found to the north on the gentle slopes of the hills. Au Bon Climat sources grapes grown at the top of the wind-swept slopes of the Solomon Hills. On this hilltop the wind and shallower soils keep the yields low and the grapes struggle to ripen. Even though it is a struggle, the small crop ripens early. This is the first Chardonnay to arrive at the winery for the last 10 years. The small crop on these hardy vines is concentrated.
- Item #: i_200400Bottle Size: 750MLBurgundian in sensibility but with California style is one way of describing Jim Clendenen's Chardonnays- Structure and restraint melded with bountiful opulence is another. In the glass, buttery brioche marries with tropical fruits in an irresistible elixir that will leave the bottle drained before you know it.
- Item #: i_202940Bottle Size: 750mlThis Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is a good all around choice to satisfy a wide variety of foods. With enough structure to age for five to six years, we think this wine is most enjoyable three years after the vintage year. This is truly a Santa Barbara County blend from warmer Santa Ynez Valley to the cooler Santa Rita Hills.
- Item #: i_215510Bottle Size: 750mlWine Advocate: 92Vinous Media: 91Jeb Dunnuck: 91 PointsDierberg has been on a roll the past few years! Dierberg sells much of their fruit to other wineries, but they have begun to keep some of the better sections of the vineyard for themselves. That being said, their own label hasn't skipped a beat, and is receiving the same high scores as their customers!
Located 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean in one of the coolest wine-growing corners of California's Central Coast, Dierberg Vineyard is on the western edge of Santa Barbara County's Santa Maria Valley appellation, which is world-renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their vineyard is planted to newer "Dijon" clones, as well as other "heritage clones" whose roots go back to the Burgundy area of France, offering a clonal diversity unlike almost any other Chardonnay vineyard in California. Last year's 93-point Chardonnay was a huge hit at our store, and this Pinot Noir is a great follow up!
This wine has the personality of many Chardonnay's from Burgundy's Macon region; baked apple, plenty of lively acidity and freshness, good body, and low to moderate use of new oak (about 20%). This is an amazing deal in California Chardonnay, earning 92 points from both Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Antonio Gallino's Vinous Media...so grab this while it's still here!
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 92 POINTS - "The 2016 Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard, aged 15 months in 20% new oak, has a nose of honey toast, baked golden apple, wet hay, earth, white peach and almonds plus a tinge of creme fraiche. The palate is medium-bodied with a silky texture, very lively acidity and a long, nutty finish. 2,675 cases produced."
ANTONIO GALLONI 92 POINTS - "The 2016 Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard is rich, ample and super-expressive. Lemon confit, pineapple, lime and tropical notes infuse this lush Chardonnay with plenty of character. Supple, open-knit and inviting, the 2017 is best enjoyed over the next handful of years."
JEB DUNNUCK 91 POINTS - "The 2016 Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard (10 months in 30% new French oak) reveals a lighter gold color as well as a terrific bouquet of white currants and orchard fruits, brioche, spice, and hints of toasted bread. With medium body, a rounded, nicely textured style, good balance, and a great finish, drink it over the coming 4-6 years."
- Item #: i_249210Bottle Size: 750mlSince 1989 the Parker family-owned and -operated winery has produced wines of superior quality and value. This handcrafted wine represents the best of what Santa Barbara County Chardonnay has to offer. Flavors of ripe apple, butter, lemon, and melon are perfectly balanced with light toasty oak on the palate.
- Item #: i_222700Bottle Size: 750mlVinous Media: 93Jeb Dunnuck: 93 PointsFoxen has been producing wines since the mid '80's in Northern Santa Barbara County. Founders Bill Wathen and Dick Dore's vision has always been the same since the start; sustainably-farmed, vineyard-focused wines using a straightforward and minimalist approach to winemaking. The wines they produce always display beautiful balance, great texture with layers of nuances and this 2014 Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU Chardonnay fits that statement "To a T"!
ANTONIO GALLONI 93 POINTS - "The 2018 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU is light on its feet and supremely gracious. As always, this is a Chardonnay that was grafted onto Riesling rootstock, is so unique. The aromas and flavors are beautifully lifted throughout. Lime, ginger, lemon confit and white flowers add to the wine's total sense of allure."
JEB DUNNUCK 93 POINTS - "Moving to the two Chardonnays, the 2018 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU sports a light gold color as well as a pure, crystalline bouquet of honeyed apple, pineapple, citrus blossom, spice, and white flower. It has a kiss of background oak, but it's beautifully integrated, and the fruit is front and center. With good acidity, a balanced, layered texture, and a great finish, it's already drinking nicely yet should keep for 7-8 years, if you're so inclined."
- Item #: i_247820Bottle Size: 750mlVinous Media: 94Not only is winemaker Adam Tolmach one of the greatest California "Rhone Rangers" we've met, but he has been fashioning outstanding Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs for decades! For Over 25 years, Adam has helped to push Rhone and Burgundian varietals into the limelight again and again, with his wines earning high scores by the publications, and raves from the consumers! The wines showcase intense fruit flavors, yet retain the ability to accompany food...not overpower it!
Adam works closely with a dozen different vineyards on the Central Coast, and the most renowned and singular expression of terroir has to be the fruit coming from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Bien Nacido is located on the eastern foothills of the Santa Maria Valley. One of the coolest wine growing climates in California, the terrain is a combination of rocky soils and ocean influence, and receives a steady wash of cool marine air. This vineyard has been named one of the "Top Grand Cru Vineyards in California" by Wine Enthusiast, and one of the "Top Five California Vineyards" by the Wall Street Journal! Bien Nacido has also been a grape source for other notable brands, such as Sine Qua Non, Paul Lato, Qupe, Herman Story, Jaffurs, and several others.
This year, Adam fermented this Chardonnay entirely in neutral French oak barrels; so you get just a kiss of wood, and it does not overpower the wine. The wine was aged for just under a year in barrel, and only 877 cases were produced...that's all that was made! This wine shows the brighter, fresher, dare we say Burgundian, side of Chardonnay. We were hooked from the first sip of this Chardonnay; you take one sip, and we're sure you will be, too!
ANTONIO GALLONI 94 POINTS - "The 2018 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is such a classic wine from this site. Nuanced, translucent and yet so full of flavor, the 2018 dazzles from start to finish. There is a level of detail and nuance to the 2018 that is just remarkable. Scents of tangerine oil, mint, dried flowers and apricot envelop the palate as this gracious, alluring Chardonnay gradually opens in the glass. The 2018 has a bit more new oak than has been the case in the recent past. I love the precision here. In a word: sublime."
- Item #: i_244840Bottle Size: 750mlJeb Dunnuck: 97 PointsIf you do not yet know the name Paul Lato, and you haven't heard us talking about him in our store, then it's time to listen up! We are telling you right now that Paul Lato is producing some of the most exciting Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs coming out of California's Central Coast!
After working as a Sommelier in Toronto, Paul decided to change gears and work in winemaking. After working with Jim Clenden at Au Bon Climat, Paul started making his first wines. Before he even had a name, esteemed critic Robert Parker tasted the wines and suggested that Paul hurry up and come up with a label, because Paul had true talent. Paul only works with premier vineyards; he tastes wines from other producers who use fruit from a potential vineyard, and if that wine excites him, then he tries to get the best fruit from the property.
Paul makes several different wines, but he does not make a large amount of any one bottling. In fact, he often makes just a few hundred cases of a particular label, which means getting your hands on them is even harder. However, our buyer has known Paul for well over a decade, so we tend to get a rather generous allocation...thanks Paul!
The scores for Paul's wines have only been going up and up. In fact, one of his Syrahs received 100 points! We just received a few releases this week, and we felt the need to bring these incredible wines to your attention before they're all gone!
JEB DUNNUCK 97 POINTS - "A great California success story, Polish immigrant Paul Lato started as a cellar hand in a Santa Maria co-op/custom crush and has worked his way up to being one of the leading producers of artisanal, world class wines in California today. Lato fashions a bevy of wines (I would normally say too many, yet given the quality he's able to achieve, the more the merrier) including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. These aren't lightweight wines, yet they never lose their sense of balance and elegance. I always describe the wines as having a slightly Old World style, but with one foot planted firmly in California. As I hope the reviews show, his 2018s are incredible wines across the board."
"The 2018 Chardonnay Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Vineyard comes from a site outside of Santa Maria and was brought up in 60% new French oak. Awesome notes of white flowers, white currants, toasted spices, honeysuckle and a touch of spice all emerge from this ultra-classic, medium to full-bodied, seamless beauty. It does everything right and is just a classy effort."
- Item #: i_249640Bottle Size: 750mlJeb Dunnuck: 97 PointsAnybody who has been in our store asking for California Chardonnay recommendations has surely heard us mention the wines of Peake Ranch. This producer has previously been on our domestic "Top Wine" list in 2018, and judging by the newly released 2017 "Sierra Madre" Chardonnay, there's a good chance that they will be on the list this year!
Peake Ranch is a boutique, family-run winery owned by John and Gillian Wagner. Like all of us who have visited Santa Barbara County, the couple fell in love with the beautiful countryside and the friendliness of the people. They purchased Peake Ranch with a vision of building a winery and a house on the property, and producing extraordinary wines. They also bring a humbleness and sense of humility, which is honestly quite refreshing. They are already receiving rave reviews from the critics, and considering that in only their fourth vintage, this is an impressive feat!
In addition to their own property, they also get fruit from the famed Sierra Madre Vineyard, one of the most prestigious vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley! Not only does this area benefit from cool summers, but Peake Ranch's portion of the vineyard comes from a south-facing hillside comprised of sandy, well-drained soil. The Robert Young clones that grow here take advantage of the spot to become both fully ripe and at the same time retain a high level of acidity. This combines both weight, richness, and freshness, producing highly complex wines.
Winemaker Solomon studied Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and began making wine with Stephen Ross Winery in the Edna Valley before moving down to the Sta. Rita Hills to continue pursuing cool climate winemaking with Melville Winery. She joined the Peake Ranch team in 2018, worked with previous winemaker Paul Lato in blending the 2017 vintage, and she made the 2018 vintage hand in hand with him. Her vision for Peake Ranch is to focus on the unique attributes of this area while emphasizing balance in Californian wines.
JEB DUNNUCK 97 POINTS - "An up and coming estate readers need to check out is John and Gillian Wagner's Peake Ranch. Located on the eastern/southern side of the Sta. Rita Hills, they produce a stunning array of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrahs. Prices haven't caught up with quality, so these are still screaming values."
"Possibly the creme of the trio, the 2017 Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard comes from a vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and was fermented and aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. It offers a terrific bouquet of sauteed orchard fruits, grilled bread, crushed citrus, and toasted hazelnuts. Rich, medium to full-bodied, concentrated, and beautifully textured, it's another thrilling wine from this estate that should be snatched up by readers."
- Item #: i_252560Bottle Size: 750MLThis wine comes from grapes grown on the "Y" Block at Bien Nacido Vineyard. "Y" Block is one of the older Chardonnay blocks at Bien Nacido. It's located on the gravelly river banks of the Cuyama River, just opposite the winery. Qupe is the only winery that gets these grapes. This is classic Y Block Chardonnay, with all of the flinty, citrus, pear and tropical fruit aromas and flavors that you've come to love, made intriguing by just a hint of spice from judicious use of French and Hungarian oak. This still has plenty of acidity for a fuller-bodied Chardonnay, with leesy richness mid-palate and a finish that begs for another sip.
- Item #: i_265410Bottle Size: 750MLThe Steele Cuvee is fermented in barrel (20% new) and stainless steel, then aged sur-lees for about eight months. Stirring the barrels regularly aids in the completion of malo-lactic fermentation, yielding complexity, depth of flavor and aroma. The Santa Maria vineyards add a tropical fruit character to the wine, flavors and aroma of mango, pineapple, and papaya. The Sonoma vineyards attribute citrus character and acid to the cuvee. The Mendocino vineyard, Lolonis, has a flavor profile that leans toward apples aromas of apple crisp and cinnamon.
- Item #: i_268290Bottle Size: 750mlWine Advocate: 91Vinous Media: 91Jeb Dunnuck: 94 PointsJEB DUNNUCK 94 POINTS - "Light gold-colored, the 2017 Chardonnay Estate offers a rocking bouquet of spiced apple, white peach, white flowers, and toasted bread. This carries to a medium-bodied, fleshy, beautifully balanced effort that's already drinking brilliantly."
ANTONIO GALLONI 91 POINTS - "The 2017 Chardonnay Estate is soft, open-knit and also quite understated. Lemon confit, almond and tangerine notes all develop in a pretty, gracious Chardonnay that will drink well right out of the gate. This is a decidedly quiet, subdued Chardonnay from The Hilt. Vineyard sites are 54% Bentrock, 28% Sanford & Benedict and 18% Radian."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 91 POINTS - "The 2017 Chardonnay Estate, aged 11 months in 32% new French oak, features chamomile, acacia, toast, roasted almonds and crushed stone with peach, Golden Delicious apple and lemon peel scents. It's light to medium-bodied with toasty fruits, juicy acidity and a long, lively finish. 1,417 cases produced."