The Best California Chardonnay I have ever tasted

Normally, I would never write about the “Best” of anything, without trying to secure a small cache for myself. But it has been well over a year, in fact nearly two, and apart from a single bottle purchased from the restaurant, I am pretty sure there are none to be had. So, I will write it up, and hope that someone somewhere will run into a bottle or two, and get as much pleasure out of the wine as I did.

I just had my second bottle, and it was equally brilliant as the first one. The wine is a Martin Ray 1992 from Saratoga. Probably cost nothing as it was on the list for $60. The sommelier, an old friend, turned me onto it. It was a dead ringer for a great Leflaive Chevalier. Superb nose, floral, white peaches and minerality. Great precision on the palate, perfect balance and a fine finish. Not quite perfect, it was long, but a little abrupt. Still it was pretty close 96/97

Doesn’t Ceritas get these vines now?

While Ceritas does indeed source from the Peter Martin Ray vineyard, I don’t believe the 1992 Martin Ray Chard was sourced from Peter’s vineyard. (Benham bought the Martin Ray label in 1990.) My understanding is they sourced Chard from various growers in Santa Clara County. Their Reserve Chard is from Bald Mountain.

Seems like I have a thing for Santa Cruz Chardonnay. This time Mount Eden, the 2008 reserve. Similar profile to the Martin Ray, another white peach, flowers and a distinct iodine/salt tang (which BTW I also find in some old Ridge Monte Bellos) wine. Brilliant and still showing very young.

I’ve had some extraordinary Martin Ray Chardonnays from the Dutton Ranch from that era -

Was this a ‘Saratoga’ appellation, or just the stated address of the winery?

Neither. The winery is in Santa Rosa. The moniker “Saratoga Cuvee” was used by the old Martin Ray. The new Martin Ray Winery (and, until recently, Mount Eden) used it as a homage. It does denote that it is all Saratoga fruit, but there is no Saratoga AVA.

I recently had a 2009 Mount Eden “Estate Bottled” Chardonnay that totally floored me. I couldn’t believe that I purchased it for $50! [cheers.gif]

Rhys Alpine is pretty amazing SCM juice.

I once had a superb 1990 Ridge Monte Bello chardonnay, perhaps not terribly far the time/place of the wine Mark mentions. That Ridge really blew our minds for how Chardonnay might/can age in some spots.

Thanks for sharing.

We had a beautiful bottle of the Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 1973 last week, and it was drinking beautifully. It showed incredible freshness, and what was even more remarkable, it continued to improve in the glass. A couple of years ago, we had the 1974, and it was equally fresh, and had perhaps a little more depth.

Those wines outlived their Oval Office counterparts. Amazing.

Here is the blurb from Mount Eden about the difference between the Estate and Reserve Chardonnays.

" The difference between this wine and our Estate Chardonnay lies solely on a curious practice sometimes used in the making of renowned white Burgundies.

As we get ready to bottle the Estate Chardonnay - which has been aging in the cellar on its original sediments for ten months - we separate eleven barrels from the blend and stir them, incorporating all of the lees into the wine. Then we pump them into a stainless steel tank and hold the wine for another ten months. During this time all of the sediments (mainly yeast lees) are magically absorbed into the wine, similar to the process of making Champagne."

So no lees remain in the bottom of the tank after the wine is racked and bottled?


Personally, I am in love with Mt. Eden Chardonnays. One of my absolut favs.

All that particulate matter absorbed into the wine? I don’t get it unless the wines are hazy (which I don’t think is the case.)

Surely nothing beats Sandhi Sanford and Benedict vineyard ?

Mark - Try the Arnot Roberts Trout Gulch Chard. One of my favorite California Chards.

From the AR website:

Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains

The trout Gulch vineyard sits at 800’ above the tiny town of Aptos, about 4 miles from the ocean in Santa Cruz county. The site was planted in 1980 to the old Wente clone of Chardonnay which is considered by many to be the heritage selection of Chardonnay in California.The soils in this cool climate site are sandy loam and the vines are carefully tended by Richard Alfaro. Harvest often stretches until mid October and the resulting wines are high in natural acidity with a notable salinity on the palate. We are excited to work with such a special site and think the wines we have produced so far from this plot will age well in the cellar for years to come.