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Rosé and Chardonnay: Recently Sampled Wines

2012 is shaping up as a great vintage for Pinot Noir. There is a surplus of fruit for winemakers to play with, so expect to see many fine rosés in the marketplace.

2012 Bruliam Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $20. A saignée of Pinot Noir after 24 hours of skin contact. Fruit is from the Russian River Valley (estate Torrey Hill Vineyard) and Sonoma Coast (Gap’s Crown Vineyard). Fermented and aged in stainless steel kegs after inoculation. No MLF. LIghtly fined for clarity. · Light pink-coral color and clear in the glass. Fresh aromas of strawberries, watermelon, cherry glaze and dried herbs. The flavors echo the nose with some welcome spice. A subtle riff of dried herbs adds an appealing savory accent. The wine is dry and refreshing and not in the tutti fruity genre of rosés. I would drink it with sushi. Very good.

2012 Left Coast Cellars Willamette Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 275 cases, $18, screwcap. Dijon 777 and 667. A saignée of 100% Pinot Noir. 50% aged in neutral French for 5 months and 50% aged in stainless steel for 5 months. · Moderate deep pink hue in the glass. This a more substantial rosé with more color, body and fruit concentration seen in most rosés. I like it for its juicy strawberry, cherry and watermelon aromas and flavors. Pair this with pork tenderloin or Honey Baked Ham. Very good.

2012 Soliste Soleil Rouge Sonoma Coast Rosé de Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 327 cases, $22. · Moderately light pink coral color in the glass. Aromas of dried cherries, alpine strawberries, melon, and herbs. Fresh flavors of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and orange zest, finishing with a note of tart grapefruit peel. Dry, and easy to like, with a freshness that is the calling card for rosé. Very good.

2012 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Rosé

12.9% alc., 26 cases, $23. Released April 20, 2013. From a cool and windy vineyard situated in the center of the Petaluma Gap. Grapes picked a week earlier that for regular Pinot Noir. A dedicated rosé, not a saignée meant to concentrate a Pinot Noir wine. Clone 777. The fruit was stomped in the bins to release a touch of color into the juice and whole cluster pressed an hour later. The juice was racked after 24 hours and fermented in stainless steel. Aged 5 months in stainless steel. · Pale pink color in the glass. Delicate aromas of red strawberries, cranberries and honeydew. Light, dry and refreshing, with elegant flavors of red berries and cherries, finishing with bright acidity. Good.

There is plenty of buzz in the wine press about a shift in the public’s preference for non-oaked Chardonnay. Don’t count me in that group, for I prefer barrel fermented California Chardonnay and here are a few excellent reasons why. Also check out the Gardener Don Miguel Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay reviewed earlier in this issue.

2011 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., · Light golden straw color in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, honey, buttered popcorn and oak. Layers of flavors including lemon, white peach, poached apple, spice and caramel with a dry, lemony finish. Oak is used to an advantage. Very Russian River Valley in character. Not for mineral-driven Chardonnay aficionados, but rather fruit and oak forward Chardonnay lovers. I can appreciate the appeal of this style which is very popular. Very good.

2010 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., 1,364 case, $58. Released October 2012. Fifteenth vintage from this vineyard first planted in 1981. This vineyard shines in both hot and cool years. Hyde-Wente selection planted exclusively for Patz & Hall on the best soils at Hyde Vineyard. Very well-drained sandy, clay loam which typically produces low vigor and low yields. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast fermentations, aged sur lie with weekly stirring, 100% MLF in barrel, aged in 52% new Burgundian French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Perfumey with attractive aromas of lemongrass, honey, pear and fresh air after a rain. Very classy, and of striking quality, with flavors of lemons, apples and oak-driven caramel and honey. Seamless, bone dry and done right. This is a wine that drinks so softly, you want to take another sip right away. Sublime seduction and one of California’s greatest Chardonnays.

2011 WALT La Brisa Sonoma County Chardonnay

14.4% alc., $35. Walt Wines is owned by vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hill who partnered with artisan vintner Roger Roessler. A blend of Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast vineyards (Dutton Ranch and Sangiacomo Vineyard). Old Wente clone. · Moderate golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon meringue, honey, poached pear, stewed apples and fresh cut grass. A solid wine with appealing flavors of vanilla pudding with pineapple, baked pear, nori and a hint of oak. A bright cut of acidity brings the wine to life and leads to a refreshing finish. Good.

2011 WALT Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.8% alc., 1,009 cases, $60. Dutton Ranch and Sangiacomo Vineyard. Old Wente clone. Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Shy, but inviting aromas of Asian pear, lemon drop, brewed lemon tea and a hint of juicy fruit. A statuesque wine that has a charming restraint but offers a very pleasurable array of flavors including lemon, pear, and green apple. No imposing oak to spoil the experience. This is a wine that unfolds slowly, showing a different nuance a little at a time. Very good.

There is a mini-surge of curious interest in Pinot Noir Blanc. Every Pinot Noir event I have attended this year has had a tasting of this new wine fad and I see there is another one at the upcoming Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Technical Session. One of the best and reasonably priced examples is this offering from Left Coast Cellars. I first tasted it at World of Pinot Noir and was so captivated, I bought a few bottles for my own cellar.

2012 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 200 cases, $20, screwcap. Made from freerun juice of Pommard and Wädenswil Pinot Noir grapes. Aged 5 months in stainless steel. · A multitude of aromas and flavors including pear, tropical fruits, and white peach. Brisk, juicy, fruity and refreshing. Delightful slightly chilled as an aperitif. Very good.

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