There is a “day” for everything. We just celebrated National Wine Day, we have ice cream, french fry, and grilled cheese day upcoming, and today is the glorious day that we celebrate Chardonnay. The favorite white wine of Americans continues to please the palate with flavors that range from zesty citrus to orchard and stone fruit, to juicy tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and guava.
In Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is a special place that has showcased Chardonnay since the 1970s, Chalk Hill. In 1972, Chalk Hill Estate founder, Fred Furth, flew over the Russian River and saw a piece of land that didn’t look like anything else around it, reminding him of the incredible chalky soils of the premium Chardonnay vineyards of Burgundy. He knew this place was special, acquiring a 1200 acre estate filled with what is, in reality, a mix of volcanic and alluvial soils, and set out planting upwards of 300 acres to predominantly Chardonnay vines. Furth focused on Chardonnay at a time when others in the region were not. Chalk Hill did not become an AVA until ten years later.
From its start, Chalk Hill Estate has always focused on Chardonnay, with 23 different clones of the variety grown throughout the estate, including what has become the Chalk Hill clone. With high elevations and the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean, and thirteen different soil types scattered throughout the estate, the location is ideal for growing Chardonnay, creating wines with energy and vibrancy.
Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay ($45) is produced with completely native yeast and bottled without filtration to keep the integrity of fruit intact, delivering the most authentic representation of the estate. Juicy and fresh, capturing the energy of the terroir, revealing aromas of honeysuckle, apple blossom, and soft herb, leading to flavors of Asian pear, white peach, mandarin, and nectarine. The wine spends 11 months in the barrel, giving texture, richness, and creaminess to the layered wine, finishing with a lovely toasty note of vanilla. We often like to age our Chardonnay wines a bit, allowing honeyed and dried fruit notes to come forward, like baked apple and pear. We enjoyed a 2015 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay recently, which showcased these flavors beautifully with a hint of smokiness. Ideal with roasted chicken or even fried chicken.
The winery’s limited production “Felta” Chardonnay ($75) is from fruit grown in gravely clay over volcanic ash soils, giving a focused lean note of minerality to the wine. Produced from a variety of clones, predominantly the Chalk Hill clone, with the fruit picked by hand, keeping each block separate, leading to native yeast fermentation, aging, and bottling unfiltered. The wine is textured, beautifully structured, and dynamic. With a full palate layering ripe peach, honeysuckle, crushed stone, soft herb, lemon zest, and custard, the rich wine is one of those pleasing wines with gorgeous character, elegance, and charm.