2010 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
The story of Sanford and Benedict Vineyard is a soap opera. Everything about it is extraordinary. It began as the dream of Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict and became the first vineyard in the “sexy” Santa Rita Hills AVA. After some years of intrigue and all sort of rumors, Michael Benedict sold the vineyard in the 1990s. If the vineyard was going to be a success, certain vineyard practices had to modernize. The new owner, being a capitalist, decided to grow a commercial crop of grapes, drip irrigation was installed, squirrels and gophers were controlled and fungicides were applied to prevent the entire vineyard from being lost to Mildew. Even bio-dynamic vineyards need to apply fungicides to prevent mildew. With these few innovations the vineyard started to thrive. The crop varied in quantity, most years the crop was light, but the quality was always first class.
2010 was the best white wine vintage ever in Santa Barbara County. The weather was nice for the entire spring and into the summer. The Chardonnay just needed a little “kick in the ass” to get fully ripe. That kick came in the form of some warmer weather. This late September heat spike pushed the sugar up while the acid remained strong. This combination produced intense grapes with the perfect sugar/acid ratio. This ratio produced a wine with mouth filling richness but with an edge of energy.
All Chardonnays produced by Au Bon Climat go through the same labor intensive steps necessary to make great wine. We start by hand picking the grapes. Next these grapes are dumped into a large press. At no time are the grapes crushed or augered. The juice quality from pressing the grapes this way is amazing. If grapes are crushed the phenolics from the grape skin give the resulting wine some bitterness, which is hard to remove without stripping the wine. The juice was pumped into new François Frères barrels for fermentation and aging after pressing. The wine was racked in June of 2011 and then returned to barrel for another year.
Slow evolution of the bottled product in a trademark of the Au Bon Climat Chardonnays made from Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. We routinely drink these wines at 20 plus years of age, for example the 1991 is delicious now. These Chardonnays are tight and linear on release, but you can feel the intensity just waiting to fully bloom. Try younger Sanford and Benedict Chardonnays with anything from the ocean. After a few years the possibilities for food matches expands to include richer poultry dishes.