2016 L'Age D'Or Chardonnay
(This story originates from our first vintage in 2010, and we share it again so you can be part of our journey)
For those that have not yet had the opportunity to meet Claude in person, well, he’s a force of nature. If you found yourself together with him and our sommelier friends, at a long dinner with endless wine, great food, and compelling conversation, you would stumble out, fuzzy, but definitely clear on a few things:
|Time to recuperate, reflect, and ask, “When is the next one!?”
|Claude is as generous sharing his opinions as he is sharing his cellar.
|His strongest, indelible, Gallic opinion, just bordering on religious fervor is that Cabernet is an evil weed and that Bordeaux/Napa Cabs are wines for trophy hunters. As he frequently says, “Bordeaux are for bankers and Burgundy is for poets.” You really have to be there to hear this rant and the depth of unwavering passion for his doctrine.
|Claude is completely and utterly infatuated with Burgundies. He wistfully recalls his youth at the table with old vignerons and his family and how much this has molded and shaped his life. With his eyes clouding over, I can hear him saying, “Just to think this small stretch of road in the center of rural France can arguably produce the greatest red (from one cépage, Pinot Noir) and the greatest white (from one cépage, Chardonnay) for centuries is just peerless – and the diversity and complexity between villages and vineyards just meters apart. Amazing!”
|To say that Claude is stubborn is an understatement. The Grand Canyon is a hole. The Sun is warm. Since the time we met and first talked about wine, he refuses to acknowledge that California makes Chardonnay, much less that we attempt. My ears ring with, “They are not wines, they are replacements for cocktails.” He boasts, “They are like buttery pop corns soaked in oak trees, it is a versatile beverage, the bartender can use for martinis when the vermouth is fini.” Without missing a beat he begins to name the wineries, but since this is where French and Japanese part, I am polite and will move on.
|“We should make Chardonnay” I say. “Over my dead body,” he intones over and over again. If we can’t make it lean, elegant, with great acidity and balance, let’s not even try. “Come and try this Montrachet with me and let the urge pass,” he bribes me again…
|But time is the friend of wine and our tenacity. Our success with Sauvignon Blanc and especially with St Andelain weakened his resolute stance. We agreed to make Chardonnay together – Soliste style: A three-year commitment, a fabulous, well-established vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and trials with different vinification and aging including importing Nomblot concrete eggs from Burgundy, 600L thick stave barrels from Taransaud, 16 month aging… Let’s just say when we go in together, we go all in together – it’s an expensive experiment. We like to think of it as our own stimulus package.
Since you are good friends of Soliste, I wanted to share some of the background and insights to this journey. For anyone that truly understands wine and winemaking, it is temperamental (French influence, no doubt), tedious, and nerve-racking. It is so much like raising children – the highs, lows, worries, and ultimately, pride. And no two are alike, yet we love them all the same.
I wish you could have been there to seen the smile and Gallic smirk on Claude’s face when we tasted L’Age D’Or a few weeks ago. Up until this point, when we would check progress, let’s just say the cellar got colder, “See, I told you, Never.” It’s time to turn this back over to Claude, as you, know, he has an opinion:
Soliste Chardonnay L’Age D’Or Russian River Valley
The best surprises are when you expect them the least. A few weeks ago, when I opened a bottle of L’Age D’Or to see where it was, I also opened a bottle of Francois & Antoine Jobard, Meursault 1er cru Blagny. At Soliste, we have benchmarks to measure ourselves. L’Age D’Or had awakened, in a fashion that conjures all the finesse, minerality, elegance, and acidity that I was expecting from a white burgundy – but it also had this undeniable Russian River DNA, tart apple and quince with very faint vanilla fat in the middle palate. Whoaaaa…Never say never again.
Tasting Notes: A close cousin to Chassagne Montrachet from Bruno Colin
Le Regard / The Look
Crystalline purity of a Citrine gemstone, with pale golden honey and lemon hues, highlighted by tannins specs from the whole cluster.
Le Nez / The Nose
intoxicating nose of flinty wet stones, white peach, Mirabelle, petrol, spiked with kaffir lime, ginger, and a touch of anise.
Degustation / The Taste
The front palate is very brisk and linear; tart green apple and pears are accented by grapefruit, lemon curd, dried herbs, and acacia flowers. The middle palate is medium-bodied, full of verve and energy; condensed layers of white peaches, Mirabelle, and quince spiked with mandarin peel, and elevated with raspy fennel tops, mint, and white pepper. The precise and tart orchard fruits are complimented by high minerality tones, and ripe tannins of nutty character, especially toasted hazelnuts. The wine possesses a vibrant core, concluding with a penetrating finish; precise, linear, and extremely vivacious. A close cousin to Chassagne Montrachet from Bruno Colin. Soliste.