When Jim asked Anne to make a Chardonnay, she was reticent. Anne prefers traditional old-world white Burgundy and is not enamored with the riper approach to the California style of Chardonnay. In order to find the right vineyard site, Anne went to Al Steele of Dutton Ranch, the famous Russian River Valley grower in Sonoma County, known for exceptional Chardonnays. She asked him for the coldest block in his coldest vineyard. Anne loves the restraint, balance, and complexity, which the climate of this site naturally produces.
Red Mare's Chardonnay has been vineyard-designated from day one. It comes from Dutton's Mills Station Vineyard, where the soil is a thick deposit of the coveted Goldridge series, known for producing deliciously complex Chardonnay. It is the combination of the "Old Block" planted to an unknown clone in the '70s along with a touch of the modern - Dijon Clone 76. This results in the beautiful juxtaposition of the bright, fruit-forward characters of the Dijon clone, and the textured, mineral characteristics of the Old Block.
We make our Chardonnay with great care - sorting and then pressing only whole clusters, which does sacrifice yield, but protects the natural acidity and prevents over-extraction. The juice goes directly to the barrel after a short cold settling. It ferments in 100% Burgundian oak barrels, with about 15% new. Malolactic is a rather philosophical question at Red Mare Wines. We allow this Chardonnay to go naturally through malolactic, but rarely all the way. Most years, the wine stops somewhere around 30 - 60%. Interestingly, the place it naturally rests is usually where we prefer it organoleptically.
American Fine Wine Competition Double Gold (2015)
American Fine Wine Competition Gold (2014)
American Fine Wine Competition Double Gold (2013)
Graceful is the word we find popping up most when trying to capture the 2017 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay. When we first pour it into the glass, the aromas waft out readily. Memories of fall are at the center, with baked apples, crusty pie dough, and oak aromas like cardamom, clove, and vanilla. With fresh notes of golden plum and a refreshing camphor element, this wine is many-layered. The mouth is all roundness and richness but with a robust guiding line of fresh pear a well as those spicy notes found in the nose. This wine, as always, is clean and refreshing in the mouth, leading gracefully to an elegant long finish.
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The memory of the recent drought, an odd spring hailstorm, and smattering of 100F+ days had yielded to a welcome string of cooler more moderate days which allowed our Dutton Ranch Chardonnay to slow down during the all-important post version ripening. A thick marine layer lasting through mid-morning - sweet relief with the rewards reflected in the glass. After-all, pacing flavor development and the retention of acid is the name of the game, especially for our style of balanced, complex Chardonnay.