The Truth About California Chardonnay

Twenty years ago if you had told me that aged California Chardonnay was good, I may have questioned you. Sure, I could believe it for a fine Montrachet, but one from California?

And, one not from the most esteemed areas for wine in the state, Napa and Sonoma, but from Santa Barbara, I may have thought you were insane fast forward to today, and not only is a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay age-worthy, but at 10 years old the wine still has years of vibrancy remaining.

Greg Brewer founded Brewer-Clifton Winery in 1996, showcasing the limestone and diatomaceous soils of Sta. Rita Hills through his elevated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, capturing the area’s refrigerated sunshine, creating age-worthy wines with character. We aren’t the only ones to appreciate his wines. Wine Enthusiast named Clifton WInemaker of the Year in 2020.

Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills 2011 Chardonnay shines with soft herbal notes, candied pineapple, caramelized lemon peel, lime leaf, and orange blossom, with layers of golden apple, pear, and creamy honey. Medium-bodied, with a welcoming, balanced palate that finishes with just a touch of briny saline.

And, though it is not an inexpensive option, it is only $55, which for a ten-year-old Chardonnay that is completely delicious, is a bargain. Available by calling the winery. The nice element of the aged selection is that every year the winery crafts the wine in the exact same manner, from the same fruit, aged the same way, leading you to believe that the current release and each release going forward can also potentially age for upwards of ten years, likely more. The current vintage is about $36.