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Sips of Recently Tasted Domestic Chardonnay

2016 Decoy Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.5% alc., 61,000 cases, $20, screwcap. Cellared and Bottled by Decoy, Ho[land, CA.. Part of the Duckhorn Wine Co. portfolio. A blend of fruit from warmer Sonoma County appellations with fruit from cooler areas. Vinified in 10% French oak, 90% stainless steel. · Light golden yellow color with a slight spritz in the glass. Pleasant aromas of lemon-lime, applesauce and vanilla creme. Vibrant on the palate, with flavors of lemon, pear, butterscotch and caramel, as well as a subtle petrol note in the background. Nicely balanced with just a whiff of oak. An unpretentious daily drinker. Score: 88

2015 Domaine Della Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.62, 125 cases, $60. Produced & bottled by Domaine Della Dale, Santa Rosa, CA.. Sourced from three vineyards including Ritchie Vineyard. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon rind, slate and caramel. A slightly reductive (matchstick) style, with appealing richness of lemon curd and pineapple flavors. Slightly viscous, endowed with bright with a sumptuous citrus-driven finish. Score: 88

2015 Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., 13,500 cases, $35. Cellared and bottled by Duckhorn Vineyards, Hopland, CA.. Vinified by Renée Ary, only the fourth winemaker in the four-decade history of Duckhorn Vineyards. 90% French oak barrel fermentation with lees stirring for 10 months and 10% in stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Clean aromas of pear, cut apple, tropical fruits and spice that fade some over time in the glass. The flavors echo the aromas in a fruit-driven style with some richness. There is a hint of salinity and the wine ends on a lemon-lime note. Somewhat shallow and less appealing over time in the glass. It seemed to me there may be some RS in this wine. Score: 87

2015 Fallon Place La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.9% alc, pH 3.29, TA 0.69, 51 cases, $38. Produced and bottled by Fallon Place Wines, San Francisco, Ca.. Aged 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. (A second bottle tasted had aromas of cooked tropical fruits and off notes. The wine was a bit flat on the palate and probably was corked although not evident to me aromatically) · Bright golden yellow color in the glass. Bright aromas of lemon, yellow apple, creme brulee and warm brioche lead to a nicely appointed core of lemon, pineapple, pear, and caramel apple flavors. The texture is slightly creamy and there is a briny hint of the sea. A richer, riper style that seems oak appointed even though only neutral oak was used. Score: 89

2015 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.64, $35. The foundation for this wine is the Frank Family’s Lewis Vineyard located in Napa Carneros near the shores of San Pablo Bay. 68 acres planted to Chardonnay and 10 acres planted to Pinot Noir. Other sources include Beckstoffer Vineyards and Hudson Vineyards in Napa Carneros, and Sangiacomo Vineyards in Sonoma Carneros. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees with hand stirring in French oak barrels, 34% new, 33% once-filled and 33% twice-filled. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of buttery brioche, lemon curd, poached pear, banana and burnt caramel. A rich and well-ripened style, yet easy going, with flavors of pear, yellow nectarine and cantaloupe embellished with meticulous integration of oak on the palate. Silky in the mouth with a modest, but juicy finish. Score: 90

2015 Frank Family Vineyards Lewis Vineyard Reserve Carneros Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.64, 1,000 cases, $65. The Lewis Vineyard was bought by Rich Frank in 2000 and named for Paul Frank’s son, Lewis. 58 acres are planted to Chardonnay in shallow and dense clay loam soils. Dijon clones. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 100% new. · Very light golden yellow color in the glass. A more mineral driven nose and palate compared to the regular Carneros bottling. Aromas of lemon-lime, pear and apple are replicated in the flavors with added notes of green apple and a hint of smoky oak on the palate. Very polished and classy, with a glorious finish filled with robust apple goodness. Score: 93

2015 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Ft Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

12.5% alc., 245 cases, $60. Grown, produced and bottled by Hirsch Vineyards, Cazedero, CA.. Low yields in 2015 produced only 1.3 tons per acre. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy aromas of lemon oil, pineapple and ripe apple lead to a moderately rich palate of lemon, pear and green apple flavors, infused with a steely bite of acidity. A bit too austere and hi-strung for my taste and a deviation from the style of this Chardonnay in the past. Score: 89

2015 Kanzler Family Vineyards Walker Station Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.30, 98 cases, $56 - Sold out. Produced and bottled by Kanzler Vineyards, Sebastopol, CA.. Inaugural vintage for this new vineyard-designated wine. 3-acre vineyard located in Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Aged over 14 months in French oak barrels, 40% new, and finished 2 months in stainless steel. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved aromas of lemon, lime and ocean breeze. Very pleasant in a mineral-inflected style with austere flavors of lemon, peach and yellow apple. Nicely balanced and easygoing, with complimentary oak, and a quenching finish. Score: 90

2015 Kitá Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

12.8% alc., pH 3.15, TA 0.0.645, 165 cases, $30. Release fall 2017. Produced and bottled by Chumash Cellars, Lompoc, CA.. Dijon clones 76 and 96. Harvest Brix 22.0º. Lees stirring with no malolactic fermentation. Aged 6 months in French oak barrels, 14% new, 86% neutral. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of pear, green apple, lime zest and nuts lead to a reserved style most noted for its acid-driven minerality. Flavors of citrus and green apple carry through to a finish offering a tight cut of acidity. A bare fruit style that will appeal to aficionados of non-MLF and minimally oaked Chardonnay. Score: 89

2015 Lombardi Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.3% alc.,pH 3.29, TA 0.68, 200 cases, $42. Bottled by Lombardi Wines, Santa Rosa, CA.. Sourced from 3 Starrs Vineyard. Wente clone. Fermented and aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 18% new. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Slowly evolving aromas of lemon, petrichor and buttered waffle appear over time in the glass. More expressive on the palate, with flavors of lemon, poached pear and apple paired with a pleasing texture. An unpretentious, every day style. Score: 88

2015 Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61, 155 cases, $40. Release May 2017. Grown, produced and bottled by Lucienne Vineyards, Soledad, Ca.. Harvest Brix 24.8º. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 50% new, 50% neutral. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved aromas of lemon, pineapple and toasty brioche. Flavors of poached pear, cooked apple, yellow raisin and caramel offered in a rich and ripe style. Slightly viscous in the mouth, with an oak-infused finish. Score: 89

2015 Lucienne Smith Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.56, 170 6- pack cases, $40. Harvest Brix 24.5º. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% neutral. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. The aromas of lemon curd, pear, white peach, buttery brioche and righteous oak maintain over time in the glass. Plush and velvety on the palate, with full weighted flavors of citrus, pineapple, cooked apple, white stone fruits and poached pear. Ripe fruited and almost syrupy in density, with embossed notes of caramelized oak. Well done in this flamboyant, Caliesque style. Score: 91

2015 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., 954 cases, $34, screwcap. Grapes sourced from Kent Ritchie, Martinelli, Mirabelle, Charles Heintz, Mill Station and Braughton vineyards. Gently whole cluster pressed, fermented and aged on the lees with occasional stirring for 9 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Enticing aromas of lemon-lime, pink grapefruit and ripe pear. Straightforward, but offering crisp citrus and white stone fruit flavors that are energized by good acidity.The wine finishes with a mineral oil taste. Score: 88


Migration, Santa Rosa, CA.

Migration, part of the Duckhorn family, was founded in 2001. It’s roots are in the 90-acre Running Creek Estate Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, but Migration also sources premium grapes from top vineyards in other cool climate appellations including Dierberg and Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley and Charles Heintz Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast.

Winemaker Dana Epperson tries to bring out the distinctiveness of each vineyard-designated Chardonnay. Dana’s emphasis on terroir relates to her deep viticultural roots, including past positions guiding grower relations for both Jamieson Ranch and Artesa Vineyards. While at Artesa, she worked alongside former Duckhorn Vineyards winemaker Mark Beringer and in a way, studied the Duckhorn style before she joined the Duckhorn Wine Company team.

Along with the emphasis on singular personalities of her wines, Dana uses a light hand with new oak with moderate toast levels to make wines that are balanced with only oak subtlety framing the flavors. If oak or buttery notes scare you away from California Chardonnay, you will find these wines appealing. All Migration Chardonnays are cellared and bottled by Migration in Hopland, CA.

Migration Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) wines are sold on the website at www.MigrationWine.com.

2015 Migration Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14,2% alc., $32. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 20% stainless steel. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Nicely appointed aromas of lemon pie, yellow stone fruits and caramel. Somewhat light and austere and straightforward, with flavors of lemon-lime dominating. Flavor notes of straw and green herb are found. The wine is softly textured and bolstered by a good acid spine. Score: 88

2015 Migration Running Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., $55. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 10% stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with hi-tone scents of pear, white stone fruits, white flowers and lemon blossom. Bright and satisfying in the mouth with vivid flavors of lemon custard, pear, white nectarine and lime. Sleek and balanced, with only a whisper of oak, and a cleansing finish. Score: 92

2015 Migration Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., $55. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 10% stainless steel. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Shy aromas of lemon oil, mango, banana and rain water. Full charged on the palate, with a vigorous show of grilled lemon, yellow peach, pineapple and creme caramel flavors. A denser, riper offering that has appeal but lacks vibrancy. Score: 90

2015 Migration Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., $55. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral, along with 10% stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Fresh, clean aromas of ocean air, lemon, and vanilla creme. Very friendly, with noticeable vibrancy and finish, offering a bracing acidity that lifts and energizes the palate, leading the drinker to want more. The flavors of lemon-lime and white stone fruits are sustained and satisfying through a palate-cleansing finish. Score: 94

2015 Migration Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., $55. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral, along with 10% stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. More reductive on the nose, with aromas of flint, oil slick, lemon oil and white peach, becoming more appealing with swirling over time. Citrus-driven in a rather austere style, featuring earthy lemon-lime flavors set off by notes of white stone fruits and nutty oak. The slightly creamy texture has appeal as does the wine's mature grape quality. Score: 92

2015 Presqu’ile Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.68, $35. Produced and bottled by Presqu’ile Winery, Santa Maria, CA.. 100% estate grapes. Clones 124, 76, 4 (Wente), 131, 95 and 96. Native yeast fermentation, native malolactic conversion and aging on the lees. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 15% new and 85% neutral, and 6 months in stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Shy but intriguing, with steely, stony aromas accompanying apple notes. A somewhat understated, citrus-driven style with bracing acidity leading to a soprano finish. Slightly creamy in the mouth with a hint of lemony sea salt. No oak character at all. Score: 88

2015 Sonoma-Loeb Sangiacomo Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.62, $27. The relationship with the Sangiacomo family dates to 1990 and today sources have been expanded to include several of Sangiacomo’s best blocks. Harvest Brix 23.7º. Fermented and aged on its lees for 8 months in French oak barrels, with full malolactic fermentation. · Light golden color in the glass. Complex nose offering aromas of citrus peel, apple, butter and lees. Somewhat steely on the palate, with refreshing flavors of grilled lemon, melon and pear. Very slight reductive note of flint is evident. Nicely composed with a good cut on the finish. Score: 91

2015 Sonoma-Loeb Envoy Carneros Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.54, $38. A limited production wine made from Wente, Hyde and Robert Young selections of Chardonnay from Sangiacomo Vineyard. Barrel fermented and aged 8 months on its lees in French oak barrels. The wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very fragrant with aromas of lemon custard, yellow apple, tropical fruits, and vanilla. Citrus-driven flavors of lemon and pineapple reflect plenty of California sunshine kissed goodness. Silky in the mouth, with enviable balance and some finishing intensity. Score: 92

2015 Sonoma-Loeb El Novillero Carneros Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.56, $42. El Novillero is a special cool, windswept section at Sangiacomo Vineyard with unusual for Carneros gravelly, rocky bench land soils. Robert Young clone planted in 1993. Harvest Bris 23.1º. Barrel fermented and aged on its lees for 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new, with 100% malolactic fermentation. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon, banana and other tropical fruits, creme brulee, and subtle toasty oak. Somewhat lush, seamless and seductive due its clean and fresh character, offering flavors of lemon, Golden Delicious apple, and golden pear. There is deft oak management and a long lemon-infused finish. A connoisseur's Chardonnay. Score: 94

2015 Three Sticks Origin Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.62, 398 cases, $50. Released February 7, 2017. Old Wente 5 block and V9 Hyde block. Fermented in concrete eggs with inhibited malolactic fermentation. Aged 11 months in stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, green apple, vanilla, straw and wet clay are quite endearing. Exceptional spirit and brightness, with flavors of lemon, white peach, pineapple and apple unplugged from oak. The slightest tannins are evident in this edgy and mildly steely wine that has some finish persistence. Score: 93

2015 Three Sticks One Sky Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.63, 241 cases, $50. Released February 7, 2017. Old Wente selection grown at 900 to 1,100 feet elevation in red iron volcanic soil over calcareous strata. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 60% new with 100% malolactic fermentation. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Compared to Origin, this wine is softer and more mellow. Aromas of lemon oil, toasty brioche and creme brulee transition to a rounded core of baked lemon, pie crust and blond caramel in the mouth. Slightly viscous with generous fullness and a righteous finish. The acidity is fully integrated such that the wine is soft like worn Ugh boots. Oak checks in but enhances rather than leads. Score: 94


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