For us, when it comes to Chardonnays, if we want one made in the Burgundy style, our go-to is Chalone. If we want an Old Faithful that’s consistent from the first taste to the last drop, every year, with toasted oak and butter (but not too heavy-handed about it), we select Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve, always a crowd pleaser. And, as we learned last night, if we want something “Really Interesting,” our pick is the La Crema.
It’s been years since I’ve had a La Crema. Not sure why—it was one of the Big California Wines from the early ’80s that caused me to fall in love with wine (specifically, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) in the first place.
Last night, re-experiencing the La Crema, my feelings were similar to having a reunion with a classmate from the ’70s, but this classmate is now older and wiser than the brash, brave creature she was 35 years ago. Aged beautifully, she has.
APPEARANCE: Pale gold, clear. Very still. As we poured, small to medium bubbles started in the center and scooted very quickly to one spot at the edge of the glass and disappeared almost instantly.
FIRST NOSE: Oak, melon, lemon/lime.
FIRST GLASS : Stone, dry yet mouth-watering, lemon, honeydew, brambles, just the tiniest edge of earth and mushrooms. A little bit of a bite, but it wasn’t harsh.
SECOND GLASS: Her story continued to unfold with pear, lychee, and some softening overall.
THIRD GLASS: Nose was revealing significant butterscotch and honey. The mouthfeel was silky and VERY smooth, with a touch of a Viognier-like glycerine-like sensation, so much so that I went and looked at the tech notes to see if a bit of Viognier had been splashed in. (Nope! It is 100% Chardonnay.)
FINISH: Long, throat-warming finish. A surprising amount of legs/tearing in the glass, too.
CONCLUSION: A fun ride. From its somewhat tight and slightly strict start, it softened into an almost subdued, very classy and soft wine. I think the 82% French oak probably had a lot to do with its unfolding like a rose.
WINE ENTHUSIAST: “Rich and unctuous, with a viscous, glyceriney texture holding deep, opulent flavors of pineapples, lime custard, clover honey, Mandarin orange and cinnamon spice. Lees treatment brings a creamy, slightly sourdough tang. Good price for a Chardonnay of this quality. Editors’ Choice. Score: 93.” Steve Heimoff, May 2011
WEB NOTES (here to end of review):
The 2009 vintage of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay opens with an intriguing interplay of lively citrus and subtle toasted oak, laced with just a kiss of butterscotch. The palate is round and nutty, with flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness, while well-balanced acidity creates a lovely vibrancy. Hints of vanilla and caramel add richness and texture to a long, fresh finish.
THE SERIES: SONOMA COAST
Since 1979, La Crema has crafted the traditional wine varietals of Burgundy in the cool vineyards of the Sonoma Coast. This coastal region’s boundary begins at the Mendocino County border, continues along the western coastal edge of Sonoma County through the mouth of the Russian River Valley, and extends to the Los Carneros region on the southern Sonoma/Napa border. Our Sonoma Coast wines are a salute to the tremendously fresh, concentrated and layered palette of flavors offered by these coastal vineyards. Crafted one barrel at a time at our family-owned winery, Sonoma Coast wines offer exceptional balance and fruit intensity.
THE PLACE: SONOMA COAST
Like the Burgundy wine region of France, the vineyards of Sonoma Coast offer an unusually long, cool and even growing season. Lingering fog and wind from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the San Pablo Bay moderate temperatures throughout the growing season and slow the ripening process. With an extended “hang” time on the vines, the results at harvest are small berries with firm acidity and highly concentrated varietal aromas and flavors.
THE VINTAGE: 2009
The 2009 vintage was particularly smooth from start to finish. Budbreak arrived on schedule in the spring, and we saw lower-than-average rainfall. Healthy flowering led to a very even set, with few heat spikes during the season. Timely veraison and cooler weather later in the season allowed the grapes to ripen slowly and spend additional time on the vine. Although the end of season was somewhat challenging due to earlier than usual rainfall, by all accounts the wines show varietal integrity, depth and concentration.
THE TECHNIQUE: ARTISAN – FROM START TO FINISH
The Chardonnay for this release was selected from cool vineyard sites within the Sonoma Coast boundaries, with fifty-six percent of this vintage coming from the Russian River Valley. A variety of clones were selected to achieve rich layers and complex, intense aromatics in the glass. To avoid damage to the clusters, fruit was picked in the cool, early morning – the grapes arriving within hours at the winery in small, half-ton bins. As the fruit glided off on a belt delivery system, we carefully removed inferior clusters, stray leaves and bits of debris.
After the fruit was pressed and settled, ninety-seven percent of the fresh juice was barreled down in French and American oak for primary fermentation. Seventy-five percent of the barrel-fermented wine also underwent secondary malolactic fermentation, converting strong malic acids to softer, round lactic acids. The wine was stirred, topped and sampled often, but not racked out of barrel until blending time (about seven and one-half months later). Toast levels of the barrels ranged from medium to medium plus, adding additional layers of spice, texture and vanilla. At blending time, the three percent of wine fermented in stainless steel was added to the finished wine.
Type of Oak: 82% French (16% new), 18% American (5% new)
Toast Levels: Medium to medium-plus
Time in Barrel: 7.5 months
T.A.: 0.55g / 100mL
Clonal Selection: Clone 4, Dijon, Robert Young, Rued
Sample received for review.