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High above the hazy glow of Silicon Valley sits the historic Peter Martin Ray vineyard; where the quality of farming and extreme altitude have drawn some of California's most sought-after winemakers, including Arnot-Roberts and Birichino. Here in this remote and unforgiving site, Chardonnay struggles to find water deep in the hillsides during blazing summers. The mark of this tenacious battle is preserved by the Raytek's choice to pick earlier than most, and is expressed through a vivid oceanic salinity in the finished wines. The 2017 Peter Martin Ray Chardonnay maintains its reputation for purity, balance, and restraint. At the usual 13.3% abv., the only allusion to the scorching summer months is the texture of tangy citrus oil that coats the palate before being swept away by a deft and mineral-laden acidity on the long persistent finish. This is a beautiful and expressive wine with many years ahead in the cellar. Recently we paired this with lobster served on buttery, toasted rolls and it gave the Condrieu a run for its money. Amanda Bowman
The Quaker Run Vineyard, planted in 1999, is located on the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains, nearly touching Shenandoah National Park. This Chardonnay's spontaneous fermentation lasted for nearly 11 months and then rested on the lees for an additional seven months. Big, round, and extraordinarily texturally dense, this wine has fine leesy, yeasty, bready character that is elegantly interpolated through the fine white peach and meyer lemon fruit core. This is a big classic Chardonnay, though it has fine acid structure that adds to a long, slightly funky, lingering finish. Andrew Farquhar
Sterling Whitted proves again that he is a winemaker to watch with this sublime 2016 Vermentino from Applegate Valley, Oregon. Whitted sources grapes from 40-year-old vines planted in red volcanic soils at 1,600ft above sea level in the historical Layne Vineyard in southern Oregon. After the fruit is pressed it spends 18 months on its lees with no battonage and only minimal sulfur at bottling. The front label looks like a scene from a Bruce Brown documentary; which at first feels like slapping a Roxy decal on a Porsche, until the second sip floods the mind with images of athletic surfers gliding on Perfect Waves. The 2016 offers vivid coastal aromas of surf and salty seashells mixed with mountain herbs and anise. The palate is creamy from the extended time on the lees and shows ripe tropical fruit that surges over a long, stony finish. This bottle will pair beautifully with a number of delicious seafood dishes, recently it awed with a boiled lobster salad with fresh tomatoes and onions. Amanda Bowman
I am not often impressed by Pinot Blanc as it is relatively neutral and typically blended with Auxerrois or other innocuous grapes, but when it's done right, for me, it's all about the texture. This 100% Pinot Blanc from Kelley Fox showcases her incredible attention to detail and desire for balance, bringing forth a rich, silky texture in the wine. The nose is delicate with fresh white flowers, lemon zest and a bit of underripe peach, and the palate has a bit more ripeness to it while still showing plenty of acidity and a lingering mineral undertone. Whole-cluster fermented in neutral oak with a complete malolactic fermentation adding to its rounded edges. The grapes are all from Freedom Hill Vineyard, which was planted in 1982 on marine sediment, which really shines on a neutral variety like Pinot Blanc. I will happily sit and contemplate this wine on its own, but it would be a lovely companion to anything you might enjoy an understated chardonnay with. Michelle DeWyngaert
This is a Chardonnay containing great, lustrous depths. The color of yellow topaz, this wine displays incredible concentration of fruit and earth, with dense lemon and pear character surrounded by white flower, honeysuckle, and a dusty, riverbed quality that is truly remarkable. A touch of nuttiness can be found in the back palate, and the wine displays an extraordinarily long finish with a kaleidoscopic array of aftereffects. The dialogue between clear acid structure and dense weight feels iconic. Right now, this wine responds well to air, with an aroma that continues to bloom over the course of several hours, yet I feel that this wine is truly meant for the cellar, where it will continue to grow and change for the next twenty to thirty years. Andrew Farquhar
Ovum is an exciting, predominantly Riesling-based project from winemakers John and Ksenija House from Southern Oregon, based out of the Rogue Valley. The Rogue Valley is in fact made up of the valleys of three separate rivers which are, from West to East: the Illinois River, the Applegate River, and Bear Creek. The Bear Creek Valley is the warmest and driest place in the state of Oregon, whereas the Illinois River Valley, from which this Riesling is sourced, is the coolest and wettest region in the state. Grown in serpentine soils, very rare for viticulture due to its hardness and poor nutrient retention, this is a powerful Riesling with loads of electric acidity and an incredible funky floral character: lime flower, sap, and dense crystalline citric fruit meld together in an amazing, expressive wine. Andrew Farquhar
This is a 100% Chardonnay sourced from two different parcels of younger vines, one planted in sandy, stony soils, the other in red clay rich with iron. Spontaneous fermentation and aging in a combination of neutral barriques and demi-muid. This is an expressive cold-weather Chardonnay, which walks the line between tartness and richness. Subtle notes of creamy sweet spices with a dash of mint play with a touch of lemon and unripe pear on the nose, while the palate is broad and textured, though with a fine vein of acidity. On the palate, the minerality comes to the fore, making this a fantastic food wine. 390 cases produced. Andrew Farquhar
Francois Morissette is one of the most creative and uncompromising producers making wine in Canada. His Irrévérence Blanc is a new cuvée exploring skin contact aromatic white grapes. 64% Riesling, 22% Chardonnay, and 14% Gewurztraminer, each of these grapes was fermented separately and using very different methods. The Riesling was fermented in stainless steel, the Chardonnay was fermented in concrete and spent 6 months in foudre, and the Gewurztraminer was fermented on the skins in qvevri for six months. After blending, another three months were spent in foudre before the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Gewurztraminer marks its territory with light, delicate tannins and a distinct but not overbearing floral aroma, and the Riesling gives fantastic citric energy and tension. The Chardonnay insinuates itself more subtly, lending a certain breadth of texture, a structural elegance, and ephemeral wisps of orchard fruits to the long finish. This is a perfect aperitif wine that is taking the wine bars of Toronto by storm. Andrew Farquhar
Sourced from estate fruit and organically farmed vineyards in the Green Valley sub-AVA of Russian River. Elegantly textured, with stylish apple and pear fruit mixing with a hint of salinity and crushed oyster shells, this is a perfect companion for heavier seafood dishes, particularly anything involving lobster. Whole cluster pressed and aged for 11 months in 25% new French barrique. What impresses me most about this Chardonnay is its reserve. Medium-bodied, the oak shows itself more in its textural integration than on the palate. 450 cases produced.
Precedent is the label of Nathan Kandler, longtime winegrower at Thomas Fogarty in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a renowned destination for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Precedent illustrates Kandler's versatility and curiosity and has introduced us to some truly unique California vineyard sites. Wirz Vineyard is home to 60+ year-old dry farmed, head-trained Riesling on decomposed granite over limestone in the Gabilan mountains. We usually have an off-dry Riesling on the table, but I'm happy to go in a drier direction in this case...concentrated, gleaming apricot, citrus rind, and tropical fruit is laced with gritty, long minerality and backed by supple texture and acidic tension. Terrific with herbed root vegetables and citrus glazed poultry or fish and anything peppery or spicy. Ariana Rolich
Revik Wine Co. is the passion project of two married couples who released their first vintage this past summer. This is a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc that positions itself at the forefront of a new wave of dynamic, elegantly structured, complex Sauvignon Blancs coming from the West Coast. Made with fruit sourced from the Saphi Vineyard in Coombsville (Revik winemaker Phil Holbrook's dry-farmed home vineyard), this wine was aged in both stainless steel and neutral oak, with 8 months on the lees. Unfined and unfiltered, and fermented with native yeast, this wine has great depth and a long linear texture, with subtle, muted citrus fruit wrapped in a chrysalis of finely spun woolen notes. Peach fuzz and melon rind absorb into zippy acidity. The subtle degrees of shading are spectacular and the finish feels like forever. Andrew Farquhar
Sourced from the oldest Riesling vines along the banks of Seneca Lake, planted in 1972 on the warmer eastern bank of the lake. Seneca is the deepest of the Finger Lakes, which allows it to moderate the temperature along its banks more than the other lakes. Cayuga, to its west, while having a larger surface area, is much shallower, and you can tell along its muggy banks during the summer. This is a beautiful textured Riesling with fine balance, great acidity, ripe citrus and apple fruit, and just a tiny hint of residual sugar. This is a steal for the price, and one of the best deals I've ever seen coming from New York State. While this will pair well with food, I think this is an ideal summer aperitif. Organic practice in the vineyard, awaiting certification, and low sulfur in the winery. Andrew Farquhar
Stolpman's Roussanne vineyards have an amazing advantage that makes us believe Roussanne from Santa Barbara will become a well-known style in the future. As many know, Santa Barbara is one of the coolest regions in California, though it is also the southernmost. After the break in the Coastal Range that lets in all the cold air from the Pacific, the Transverse Ranges funnel the fog in towards Ballard Canyon and it dissipates earlier in the day and the maritime influence is mitigated, yet still the air is cold. Being at 34 degrees latitude south allows the skin of the grapes to tan in the long hours of the sun, giving them the rust color, or 'Rousse', for which they have been named. In July, the vineyard team pulls leaves away from the bunches, and they rotate the grapes 180 degrees to give an even tan. This extra sun does not lower acidity too much, due to the cold nights and limestone soils. These aspects come together to produce a wine of massive structure, with a broad, intense palate and high acidity, that nonetheless gives us beautiful citric character and lush white fruits. This is a white wine for pairing with heavier dishes like lobster, pork loin, or even a beef braise. Andrew Farquhar
This Chardonnay is sourced from the Coastview Vineyard, which must be one of the most extraordinary vineyards to see anywhere, at the top of a peak in the Gabilan Mountains, situated 2,400 feet above sea level, on a dirt track it took seven years to cut. From this height, the ocean is visible over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west. Thin topsoil here overlays decomposed limestone and granite. Father-son vineyard managers John and Parker use a huge herd of sheep instead of machine mowers in this rugged terrain, and winemaker Alex Pomerantz uses this fruit to make an incredible Chardonnay that isn't quite like anything I've tasted. Whole cluster pressed before being put into neutral barrel to ferment and age for five months before being racked and put in tank for another five months. Lean and aromatically expressive, this is a very pure and pretty wine, not without richness, but more angular in structure, which should allow it to benefit from some time in the cellar. 12.5% alcohol by volume, and bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with no sulfur added. 294 cases produced. Andrew Farquhar
Probably the freshest expression of Marsanne I've ever tasted. I really enjoy Joe Swick's approach to this typically soft, sometimes oily grape. By picking the Marsanne early it maintains a ton of lemony acidity on the palate, but by extending the maceration on the skins for 30 days it developed a rich, supple texture and a touch of nuttiness. On the nose it's a lovely mix of white flowers, apricot, and fresh linen. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in neutral 500L barrels, and then racked once before bottling with a bit of SO2. Michelle DeWyngaert
The 'It Happened' is 100% Gewurztraminer that spent 30 days on the skins, sourced from the Eola-Amity Hills near Cristom. The wine has gone through full malolactic fermentation, which, coupled with the skin maceration, gives it a textured, creamy mouthfeel. This is a delicious orange creamsicle of a wine, fermented to dryness but displaying notes of sweet orange and yellow flowers. Michelle DeWyngaert
For Nathan Kandler, winemaker at Thomas Fogarty, Portola Springs is the most extreme of their Santa Cruz Chardonnay vineyards, with its very steep slopes and cool marine air influence. The Chardonnay grapes ripen very slowly and yields are frustratingly low. Portola Springs has a characteristic lemon drop and verbena with flavors of lemon oil, sea spray, and dried thyme. Pair with roasted cauilflower or chicken. Jonas Mendoza