2013 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
The first “great“ vineyard in Santa Barbara County was planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict in 1971, first with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, then later with Pinot Noir vines from Karl Wente. The Burgundian varieties had found a home in Santa Barbara County. With a mantle of hard, siliceous chert-gravel covering deep, well-drained soils, it is a perfect medium for Pinot and Chardonnay. Sanford & Benedict is primarily planted with Pinot Noir (68 acres) and Chardonnay (52 acres).
Au Bon Climat was lucky enough to buy a few tons grapes from Michael Benedict in the mid 1980s, and since then, Au Bon Climat has received grapes from this vineyard every year except 1990 when the vineyard was in transition. As the “new” winemaking crowd discovered and consequently worshiped this vineyard, demand for Sanford and Benedict grapes has skyrocketed. Au Bon Climat still buys some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the original plantings of this vineyard as we have for the last 23 years. Only Sanford Winery has that kind of “history “with this vineyard.
Spring time weather on the Central Coast of California can be cold and breezy and these conditions make growing grapes a challenge. But the 2013 spring was uncharacteristically mild with gentle breezes, not the brutal cold wind typical for March and April in these Central Coast coastal valleys. The result was small clusters with beautiful grapes. All the Chardonnay vineyards we dealt with in 2013 had a good amount of fruit. Just like 2005 we had a nice size crop that ripened slowly but completely. We were lucky enough to usually “be in the right place at the right time” and most lots of grapes were picked just where we wanted them. After a nice long growing season, the Chardonnay was harvested, whole cluster pressed and put into barrel. We fermented in 50% in new French oak barrels, as we do with our “reserve quality” wines. Alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation took place in the barrel and the wine remained surlee until the following August. After racking and a light fining we put the wine back to barrel for another nine months. Barrel age was a total of 20 months.
The grape's chemistry numbers at the time of harvest were essentially perfect: low pH, with a nice sugar/acid balance. The hallmark of the Au Bon Climat Chardonnays is age-ability, something that can only be done when all criteria is in balance. Sanford and Benedict wines age especially well and we regularly open vintages from the late 1990s that are rich, integrated and delicious.
The flavor profile for this well structured Chardonnay is in the subtle pear and apple realm with accents of lavender and anise from the time in barrel. The citrusy notes of lemon and orange will evolve into more of a mineral and saline quality. Over time, additional flavors and aromas will emerge as the wine expands. As a young Chardonnay, this wine pairs well with any fish, salmon to trout. With age the wine matches will increase to dishes with mushrooms and game birds.