West of West Festival seminar on Chardonnays

On Saturday, August 4th I attended three seminars at West of West Festival in Occidental, CA. I already reported on the Littorai story. Next up was a seminar presenting eight Chardonnays from western outposts of Sonoma County–two each from four different vintners, mostly comparing the 2007 and 2010 vintages.

2010 CERITAS PORTER BASS CHARDONNAY West Sonoma Coast. A little sharper, more defined than the 2007. Some lemon on the nose; leggy. Subtle butter or vanillin.

2007 CERITAS PORTER BASS CHARDONNAY Deeper color than the 2010. Long finish. I prefer the 2010. Porter Bass Vineyard is over 30 years old. There have been some problems with older vines–leaf roll, etc.

2010 FAILLA ESTATE, FORT ROSS CHARDONNAY Nose of the two vintages similar; similarity in the palate also though the younger wine comes across with more forcefulness.

2007 FAILLA ESTATE FORT ROSS CHARDONNAY Less “buttery” than the Ceritas. Improves with aeration. Was barrel-fermented. The wine was fermented in concrete for the first time in 2010. Used a cold press. No added yeast. Interesting that the one that was not barrel-fermented was the one with more power or body IMHO.

2010 PEAY VINEYARDS ESTATE CHARDONNAY, ANNAPOLIS, CA. Starts slowly on tongue and builds mid-mouth.

2007 PEAY VINEYARDS ESTATE CHARDONNAY, ANNAPOLIS,CA. Also a slow starter but a bit faster on impression than the 2010.
Andy Peay mentioned that 2010 in general is a racier, more acidic vintage than the 2007.

Ramey Chardonnays we tried were from 2002 and 2010 vintages and from different vineyards.
2010 RAMEY WINE CELLARS, PLATT VINEYARD CHARDONNAY, FREESTONE. i like the finish of this wine–prefer it slightly over the 2002. Actually, I later wavered on which wine I prefered.

2002 RAMEY WINE CELLARS, RITCHIE VINEYARD, SONOMA COAST. More citric acidity than the 2010. Nice and fresh. Doesn’t taste tired. Ritchie Vineyard was planted in 1972.

I think the 2010 Ceritas Porter Bass and the two Ramey Chardonnays were my favorites of the tasting.

Some comments from David Ramey:
As to what might be the cause of premature oxidation in white Burgundies–Burgundy winemakers moved from chlorine treatment of corks to hydrogen peroxide and that may account for premox. Also reduced sulphur levels might be a contributing factor.
Believes in gentle handling of wines–move as few times as possible. Seeks to produce Chardonnay that can age for 10-15 years. On stelvin caps: he believes wines aged in barrels should be bottled with corks. Rose’ wines or wines intended to be consumed in a year or two–Stelvin is fine. Stelvin closures/screwcaps can lead to reduction in wines. Cork is renewable and screwcaps are not.

Kerrin Laz, of Dean & Deluca, was on the panel. Some of her comments:
Some general characteristics pf West Sonoma Coast Chardonnays: balance, citrus, ginger, minerals.
During questions and answers I asked about whether many customers seek out unoaked Chardonnays. She answered that fewer customers ask for that now than did eight or ten years ago. Customers may be seeking Chards in which the wine doesn’t TASTE “oaky.”
David Ramey pointed out that “every barrel is innocent until misused.”
(A distributor that I had met the previous evening told me that his customers DO seek out unoaked Chardonnays and he was surprised by the Dean & Deluca representative’s answer.)

Ehren Jordan of Failla mentioned that the estate is at a 1200-foot elevation closer to the coast than the other estates represented in the tasting. They dry farm everything–no irrigation. Hirsch Estate is on the same ridge as Failla. Chardonnay does way better than Pinot Noir grapes in Fort Ross high elevations. Younger vines ripen up to two weeks sooner than older vines.

The FtRoss AVA was only approved last Dec by the TTB. Did the label already have a FtRoss AVA on it??

We didn’t see the labels. But the handout listed Failla wines as being from Fort Ross.

Thanks, Jane. That makes sense for Ehren to promote the FtRoss AVA on the handouts.