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White Wine Club

White Wine Club - February

February 17, 2012

Dear White Wine Lover:

I'm ecstatic to present for the third time one of my favorite California Chardonnays - 08 or 09 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay, a chardonnay made by a unique method:  barrel fermentation in Glass, Oak, and Stainless Barrels.

The barrel fermentation allows for extended lees contact, bringing richness to the wine, and the glass and stainless vessels allowing the wine to retain a crisp acidity and bright fruit.

David Hirsch planted his first Chardonnay vineyard on the rocky slopes above his house on the Sonoma Coast back in 1994 on the urging of Burt Williams and Ed Selyem. The cuttings came from Joe Rochioli, and the fruit from the vineyard ended up in wines from Willams-Selyem and Kistler, among others, over the years.This wine is made from fruit from the original site, as well as another 1.4 acres planted nearby in 2004, and is fermented and aged in a combination of glass, oak, stainless and fermented in stainless and aged in oak. All of the components are then blended together and aged in mostly neutral French oak for another nine months. The resulting wine is amazingly vibrant, with a floral nose redolent of jasmine and lemon blossoms, with lemon zest aromas, it smells like a garden! On the palate, the fruit has a slight tropical edge, with pineapple flavors to complement the citrusy tang and stone fruit goodness. And like all of Hirsch's wines, it has plenty of energy from the slow ripening Sonoma Coast climate.

Read more: White Wine Club - February

White Wine Club - November

This month we present a wine from one of the iconic California Chardonnay vineyards, made by one of the world's best Chardonnay winemakers - Hudson Estate Chardonnay.

Lee Hudson is a grower in the Carneros, and grows Chardonnay and Syrah grapes.  He sells these grapes to some of the finest wineries around - Kistler, Ramey, and Kongsgaard to name a few - who sell their wines for upwards of $125 per bottle (!).

The winemaking team is a collaboration between three people, Lee Hudson, owner and operator, John Kongsgaard, consulting winemaker and Christopher Vandendriessche, winemaker. We all firmly believe that the wine is made in the vineyard, but the care and the attention to detail cannot stop there. Every effort possible is taken between the vineyard and you to make wines without compromise.

2009 notes from the winery:


From Lee Hudson:  As a wine grower, the 2009 vintage was everything I could hope for from budbreak and harvest. The year unfolded as and when it should; all we had to do was keep up. A large storm passed through mid-October, but we managed to escape unscathed. As growers, our primary job is to read the vineyard and adjust our management approach based on current and forecasted conditions. The 2009 vintage seemed to say “It’s all under control” and required minimal intervention. The resulting fruit quality was superb with ideal flavors and aromas. Looking back it almost seems like it was easy.


From Winemaker Christopher Vandendriessche: Ideal ripening conditions in 2009 led to a very ripe initial harvest of our first blocks of Chardonnay. When we tested the fruit, we found the sugar levels were higher and the acid levels were a bit lower than usual for the lively style that we like in the Hudson Chardonnay. So we picked subsequent blocks a bit earlier than usual to create the ideal balance in the finished wine. We gently pressed the whole clusters for a short period of time, to keep as much natural acid as possible in the wine. This “vintage-tailored” refinement of our winemaking techniques made for a very focused and balanced wine in barrel. The wine fermented slowly in French oak barrels (90% new) with the wild yeasts finishing fermentation early in the new year and malolactic following soon after. This earlier development led to an earlier than usual bottling. As with previous vintages, we stirred the barrels twice a month for added flavor and to allow for extended aging with no added sulfur. The resulting wine has an unusually interesting balance of flavors, showing a great intensity of sunny fruit and floral flavors as well as bright natural acidity, minerality and a very long finish.

Read more: White Wine Club - November

High End White - September

This month, we present another iconic California Chardonnay-  2008 Kistler Chardonnay Durrell Vineyard. 

As Robert Parker once said:  "If the Kistler Winery could be magically transported to the middle of Burgundy's Cote d'Or, it would quickly gain a reputation as glorious as any producer of Burgundy Grand Crus." 

Kistler Vineyards is a small, family established and privately owned and operated winery dedicated to the vinification of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using old world Burgundian techniques applied to new world vineyards.  Both their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are crafted utilizing classic Burgundian techniques.
The wines are produced solely by native yeasts, and barrels are crafted from French oak that is aged to their specifications. All wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Read more: High End White - September

White Wine Club - October

This month, we were lucky to score some Martinelli Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Valley, 2008, one of the great California Chardonnays!

Your allocation is for one bottle.

Awarded 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate:  "The light green/gold-colored 2008 Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch reveals more butterscotch, honeyed mandarin orange, citrus oil, brioche, leesy, waxy notes along with full-bodied richness and a California style that mimics a premier cru Meursault with its hazelnut and subtle smokiness. Drink this stunning Chardonnay over the next 7-8 years."

The venerable Martinelli winery, one of the iconic families and longtime growers in Sonoma, has turned out another impressive group of wines.Awarded 94+ points from the Wine Spectator: "Bold, ripe and fleshy, offering exotic floral and spicy notes, along with flavors of bubble gum, fig, honeydew melon and hazelnut. Full-bodied and viscous, gaining depth and nuance on the long, tapered finish. Drink now through 2017."

The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1887. At the ages of 19 and 16, Giuseppe Martinelli and Luisa Vellutini eloped from their small village in the Toscany region of Italy, making their way to California looking for land to farm and start a winery. Giuseppe had been a winemaker in Italy and with his viticultural knowledge he was hired to plant a vineyard for a farmer in Forestville. Within two years he earned enough money, and borrowed some from a local wood cutter, to purchase some land. Working side by side on a 60 degree slope, Giuseppe and Luisa planted a small area of Zinfandel and Muscat Alexandria vines, which later became known as the Jackass Hill vineyard. Over 100 years later, this south easterly exposure remains the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County.

In 1918 Giuseppe died, leaving Luisa with four children and the farm to care for. Their youngest son, Leno was twelve years old at the time and had wanted no other career in life than to be a farmer. Leno’s two older brothers wanted nothing to do with the impossibly steep hillside so after completing the eighth grade, Leno finished school and took on the sole responsibility of farming the Zinfandel vineyard. His family told him that only a jackass would farm a hill that steep. Hence, he and his vineyard earned the name Jackass. Leno received all of his farming knowledge from his parents and through his own lifelong experience of tending the vines the way his father had. He even continued using a horse and plow until 1949. At the age of 89, Leno decided to hang up the keys to his John Deere, and handed the vineyard over to his son, Lee Sr. Following the family tradition, Lee was introduced to vineyard work at the age of seven, performing all seasonal tasks necessary and learning the old viticultural practices handed down through the generations.

In 1973 Lee Sr. took over management of his Uncle Tony Bondi’s estate, which was comprised mainly of apple orchards, and began planting vineyards in the rich soil of the Russian River Valley. Soon considered a premium grape grower, Lee’s fruit was in great demand from many wineries. Realizing the exceptional potential to create superb wines from these grapes, Lee and his wife, Carolyn, decided to start their own winery. Two old historic hop barns that grace the property have been converted into the wine making facility and tasting room, keeping with the original feel and structure of the centurion buildings.

Twenty years later in 1993, Lee and Carolyn met and befriended Helen Turley on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere. They discovered that they were vineyard neighbors; Helen’s Marcassin vineyard rests on the same ridge as the Martinelli’s Charles Ranch vineyard along the Sonoma Coast. Soon they began working with Helen professionally, and she introduced new viticultural and cellar practices to the Martinelli family. The winery’s new vineyards are all planted with the professional consultation and specifications of John Wetlaufer and Helen Turley. Lee Sr. and his two sons, Lee Jr. and George, do all of the farming, keeping the business traditionally family owned and operated. Helen Turley is the consulting winemaker and Bryan Kvamme is winemaker.

About Zio Tony Ranch.  According to Lee Martinelli, Sr:  "The "Zio Tony Ranch" is named after my father's uncle whom was the first in the Bondi family to be born on American soil. Zio Tony was the son of Paolo Antoni Bondi and Adele Gemma Cardellini, who emigrated from Italy in the late 1800's, and immediately set up farming potatoes. In one year they saved enough money raising potatoes to purchase the apple ranch on which Tony was born and where he and his sister, Alma, were raised. Zio Tony, Zio meaning 'uncle' in Italian and pronounced 'tseo', was a very charismatic man with a big booming voice whom loved a good time. His broad handsome smile is still legendary in the old farming community of western Sonoma County. He was the entrepreneur of the family and began buying individual properties and planting apple trees, eventually establishing the largest apple orchard in the county. When Zio Tony passed away in 1971 his nephew, Lee Martinelli, Sr., took over management of the estate. The love of his family's heritage land was too great for Lee to sell the property and in one short season he went from High School teacher to Apple Farmer.

The market for apples in Sonoma County eventually grew unbearably soft and the Zio Tony Ranch has gradually made the transformation from apples to grapes. Keeping with our family heritage we have preserved a large grove of the old thick-trunked Gravenstein apple trees. Bursting with flavor, Gravensteins are the best in the world for baking and eating. Surrounding this acreage of ancient fruit bearing trees Lee Sr., has planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which are varietals that glorify in this particular climate's warm/cool temperatures. The vines are planted on rolling hills, are densely spaced at 2,000 per acre with clones '115', 'Quail Hill', '548', and '95', and rootstocks, '420', '101-14' and '3309'. This small vineyard is trained on a vertical trellis system with the fruit hanging just 24 inches above the ground. The grapes are thinned down to only 3 pounds of fruit per vine. These practices all insure mature fruit flavors in the wine as well as even ripening.

The grapes are picked between 25 and 26 degrees brix to ensure mature ripe fruit flavors. They are hand selected at harvest time by Lee Martinelli, Sr. and Helen Turley who taste the grapes and choose when to pick according to the developed concentration of flavors in the berries. The wine is fermented with wild yeast in 75% new French oak barrels, where it rests in on its gross lees for 10 months. The grapes, juice, and then wine are minimally handled. This Chardonnay is neither heat nor cold stabilized and is unfined and unfiltered.

Read more: White Wine Club - October

White Wine - 8th Allocation

This month, we present one of the world's great white wines - and one of my favorites  - 2007 Remelluri Rioja Blanco, a traditionally made white Rioja that is drinkable now, but can age seemingly forever. 

This vintage was rated 94 points by Parker:   "The 2007 Remelluri Blanco is a blend of 7 grapes varieties with the largest roles played by Garnacha Blanca (25%) and a combination of Roussanne and Marsanne (25%). The wine is fermented with native yeasts with malolactic fermentation in barrel followed by 16 months of aging in new French oak. It offers up a glorious perfume of buttered popcorn, tropical fruits, jasmine, baking spices, and minerals. In the glass the oak is integrated, the texture silky, and the wine’s acid structure is firm and uplifting. It is likely to evolve for several years adding to its already considerable complexity. Drink this outstanding effort from 2013 to 2019+.

Read more: White Wine - 8th Allocation


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