Favia Chardonnay - oak but no malo

A few months ago, I got a bottle of 2020 Favia Chardonnay Carbone as part of the Wine Access Michelin club. It’s hard to stress how unlikely a purchase that would have been for me.

The only professional review I could find out there was for the original vintage in 2018 from Kim Marcus in Wine Spectator:

Fresh and juicy, with green apple and pear pastry flavors that feature hints of lemon verbena. The gauzy finish is rich and well-spiced. Drink now through 2023.
SCORE > 89

For context that’s one point below the score Kim gave in Napa to the basic Duckhorn and the Groth Hillview that same vintage. It’s the same score he gave in Sonoma to the La Crema Sonoma Coast and the Ernest & Julio Gallo RRV that vintage. So suffice it to say I wasn’t too excited about having the 2020 version, even if his description sounded better than his actual score.

Thinking I’d get it out of the way, I opened it. And, I actually liked it a lot. Here’s my CT note:

2020 Favia Chardonnay Carbone > - USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville (4/9/2022)
Crisp aromas of lemon, light-colored flowers and Spring rain. Flavors of green apple, herbs, and citrus. Outstanding balance. Almost unnoticeable, judiciously restrained use of oak. Zesty acids. I would do with this Chardonnay something I rarely do with any California Chardonnay, I would buy it again.

ABV: 14.2%
Standrad cork. > (94 pts.)

Apparently the key to Favia’s Carbone Chard is that they harvest early and prevent malolactic fermentation, though they do use oak barrels (some percentage new) to ferment the juice and keep it on lees for 8 months. (That’s a link to their notes.)

This isn’t Chablis. The word that comes to mind is juicy (Kim was right about that), like a Mosel Riesling. Their notes say it’s a wine meant for immediate consumption, not aging. Though I don’t see why a few years would do it any harm.

Has anyone else had this? Are there other Chards like this (maybe better somehow)?

Montelena similarly blocks MLF and ages 10 months in barrel. Though I haven’t had it recently, I think it can drink well for several years.

Stony Hill as well, I believe, and those age indefinitely. Perhaps the benchmark as far as that goes.

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For the record, Kim Marcus was a man who passed away six months ago.

Oops. I had no idea of his gender. Just presumed based on the name. Will correct my post. Sad to hear of his loss.

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shafer does this as well, iirc.

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14.2% ABV was “harvested early”?

I only knew Montelena. Interesting that Shafer does this too. I love the style when it’s done well on some aromatic grapes too. A few that come to mind are Didier Dagueneau, Sketch Albariño, and at least some of Thibaud Boudignon’s wines. Of course there are plenty of Rieslings treated this way too, but maybe that’s different as they don’t tend to naturally go through MLF.

In the context of Napa these days, I think that’s fair.

Perhaps also preferable given the style?

Not uncommon, but wondering if they block it chemically with lysozyme or with high levels of SO2?

Also, is there such a thing as a truly ‘acid driven’ chardonnay from Napa, and if so, where are the grapes grown? Carneros or?


I was doing to say that as well. Going from
memory of years ago, it’s a good wine, kind of more California level of ripeness but then retains brighter acid.


Your guess as to how they prevent malo is probably better than mine. My guess was probably the same way they do it for Champagnes like Cristal, Vilmart, Gosset and Egly-Ouriet. But I honestly have no idea.

Yeah no malo on red shoulder ranch chard, which is often really pretty enjoyable and carries pretty nice acidity.

The two great Chardonnay vineyards - Hudson and Hyde - are both Carneros.

Agreed - just wondering about others AND whether there are any true ‘acid driven’ Napa Chardonnays? I know there are plenty of cooler sites in Sonoma but . . .


That’s why I originally asked Larry. My thinking was that the same treatment in a cooler site might produce a better wine. (Not too cold because if it starts really needing the malo it might not work.)

I also enjoyed this wine as well and gave it 94 points:
Wow I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did, tiny production from Favia, 100% Coombsville. Wonderful aromas of Gooseberry, tangerine, white peach, passion fruit, wild grass and citrus peel. The palate is bright with fantastic purity of white stone fruit, crushed stones and refreshing acidity. An oily mid-palate leads to a textured mineraity finish.
Coombsville might be the new home for awesome Chardonnay

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Far Niente blocks malo in their Chardonnays while also having an oak program. Mostly Coombsville fruit, some Carneros.

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