Started this event off with a bang, heading straight to the grand-daddy of California Chardonnay and one staying consistent to its roots by producing age-worthy Chardonnays. And age they do! The 2000 tasted nearly as fresh as the 2013, just a slight color change and some of the nuttiness developing, but alive and amazing and full of acid.
The common thread in Chardonnay marketing for at least the past decade has been *oaked* vs. *unoaked*. Anyone who has perused grocer-shelves even casually will know the latter word shows up on front labels more prominently than appellation, oftimes. The short-comings of this branding scheme are obvious–and deserve an entirely different blog-post. Needless to say, both versions were on display at all the California tables and the two buzzwords flew around CONSTANTLY–usually before you even had a chance to taste. The CRŪ table was my wild-card foray into California at the Chardonnay Symposium–as I have tasted just about every other brand present at some time and CA Chard honestly is not my favorite–EVEN in an un-oaked style. Here we have two nearly-identical Arroyo Seco’s with similar handling in all ways EXCEPT one is SS and one is barrel. Arroyo Seco is a favorite appell for me if I AM drinking Chard and I had never sampled CRŪ before. As expected, both beautiful wines, one bright and crisp and one richer and buttery.
THIS is why I attended The International Chardonnay Symposium! The Chablis bright and brilliant, clean and easy, full of citrus and tiny flowers and the Pouilly depending on a core of gutsier fruit and steminess. The Rully premier was my absolute WOTD, balancing oak and fruit, wilted floral and wet dirt–juxtaposing barnyard with minerality. A brilliant bottle of wine. Two vintages of Meursault were tasted, rich and round, the 13 naturally showing slightly edgier than the 12.
Domain Chartron et Trebuchet
The second wild-card of the day. It is important to have an open mind to labels you have not heard of! The Anderson Valley by WIND RACER is a monumental wine: rich, thick and buttery–not my style at all but definitely a crowd-pleaser. All in a beautiful package and bringing with it that classic Anderson Valley *edge* they manage to blend in to everything they bottle. The CAPENSIS is an entirely different bird. From South Africa, the 2013 was easily one of the most obfuscatingly oak-ridden liquids I have ever smelled. SO MUCH smoke, just dense clouds of oak, oak and more oak, charcoal and smoke, completely obliterating everything in all directions. The young man pulled a 2014 yet-unlabeled bottle from behind the table and offered it with the explanation of a “focus-shift” and “wine-maker change” at CAPENSIS. What a difference. I would not hesitate to serve this wine alongside some of the best-showing from CA or Burgundy. The bothersome oak-smoke was nowhere to be found, and in its place delicate fruit which intensified in complexity the more time you spent with it. One of the highest-quality wines from So. Africa I have had in some time. Was shocked to learn it is 75$/.
The OTHER California I came to see. An opportunity to taste LIOCO is definitely NOT something to pass up. Lioco is just CRUSHING the Chardonnay game and they brought them ALL out to shine at the Chardonnay Symposium. La Marisma from Santa Cruz Mountains and Hanzell from Sonoma, Estero from RRV–HOW ON EARTH DO YOU PICK A FAVORITE?!?! Brilliant BRILLIANT wines, nutty and mineralific, the right amount of butter and oak, acidic zest keeping everything in balance. Tasted alongside their *lowly* Sonoma County blend–easily one of the best entry-level wines at the event. These wines are not easy to find, but search them out. This is a producer doing EVERYTHING right.
Aliane Wines brought this little grouping up and they were definitely crowd-favorites. Approaching the table required nearly knees and elbows as seemingly EVERYONE wanted a crack at these four bottles. As is rather predictable with me, my palate was drawn to the center of this grouping, with the Chavy Puligny offering a generous concoction of fig and pear, but balanced against a green brightness and perfect oak. The Marchand-Tawse was no slouch, and their own-labeled white burg and baby Chablis both bright, shining examples of the entry-level of this variety in France. The full list of wines this unique company represents is positively drool-worthy.
There was a stray bottle of Latour Corton-Charlemagne hanging about after The CorkDorks radio spot with Christopher Sawyer and I chose it as *dessert* while chatting a bit around a plate of cheese and paté from Fromagerie Sophie in San Luis Obispo. While not my favorite wine of the event, the pedigree was obvious–voluptuous and smoky–but I found myself searching out a splash of that Rully for a palate-cleanser. Such is Chardonnay.