2018 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard
What can one say about Bien Nacido that has not been said before? This award-winning vineyard is in the center of the Santa Maria Valley AVA and grows high quality grapes of many varieties. Chardonnay was first varieties planted here in the early 1970s. Winemakers saw the quality coming from this vineyard near Santa Maria. These Chardonnay grapes were sought after by wineries, big and small, all over California. Au Bon Climat has a “lifetime” contract for the best block of Chardonnay at Bien Nacido. All the Chardonnay from “K” block has been made into wine at Au Bon Climat since 1989. “K” Block is on slight slope, with more gravel in the soil then the bottom land blocks. The poorer soil keeps the vigor and crop size under control.
Traditional winemaking practices were employed to make this lovely Chardonnay. The grapes were hand harvested, whole cluster pressed (to minimize tannin extraction from the skins), totally barrel fermented in 100% new François Frères barrels, aged for 18 months, bottled unfiltered. Low pH Chardonnay interacts with oak in a very different than flabby Chardonnays from warmer areas. Warmer climate riper Chardonnay makes the wine “buttery”. Lower pH wine shows subtle and well-integrated aromas of orange blossom, anise and lavender. The oak component is evident with a charming mix of vanilla and hazelnuts.
Our Historical Vineyard Collection wines are meant to age. Grapes are picked with a low pH and moderate sugar to make Au Bon Climat style Chardonnay. We picked the grapes for this wine in early September, the sugar was on the low side but intensity and flavors indicated the grapes were ready.
One whiff reveals this is obviously Chardonnay made in an old world style. Minerality and reduction from extended lees contact, reminds us of Burgundy. Sweet barrel spice mixes nicely with a lemon limey note. Surprising rich on the palate, classic varietal flavors of apple, citrus and vanilla go on and on. This lively Chardonnay will go with wide assortment of foods. Lobster Pappardelle with chive butter, or fresh corn soufflé with bacon and comté cheese are just a couple of favorites with this wine.
Score: 94 The 2018 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard comes from a great, great site outside of Santa Maria and is 100% varietal brought up in 75% new French oak. Ripe stone fruits, honeyed almonds, chalky minerality, and some salty, savory, marine-like nuances all emerge from the glass, and it's nicely textured, with medium-bodied richness and a great finish. It's very much in the style of this estate and should benefit from a year or two of bottle age.
Wine & Spirts Magazine
Score: 91 This chardonnay eludes early interpetation, shrouded in oak and reductive lees scents, golden and vague in its smoke and caramel accents. That caramel essence gets channeled through tense green apple and lemon notes. Recommended for the cellar, the wine is years from peak expression. - PJC