Chardonnay Horizontal Tasting
The breathtaking easterly views down to Silicon Valley and the slowly advancing fog over Skyline Boulevard towards the west make the location of Thomas Fogarty winery so wonderfully enchanting. As a full moon prepared itself for a bold entrance behind me, I headed up the curvaceous Page Mill Road for a treat: The Thomas Fogarty 2011 Chardonnay wine tasting. The pre-release 2011 horizontal Estate Chardonnay tasting consisted of four closely located Estate Chardonnay’s from the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as a contrasting 2010 and a 2008 (not listed). All of the wines experienced similar viticultural practices, oak aging and élevage so the tasting differences noted are purely down to position within the Estate. This was pure poetry and a tantalizing taste for - and test of - terroir.
2011 Estate Chardonnay: Langley Hill Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
At 1890 ft, the southeasterly 5.25 acre Langley Hill sits on sandstone and a tolerance to maritime fog. Largely because of the altitude and local climatic influences, all of the Thomas Fogarty chardonnay is considered cooler climate in style. The Langley - as with all of the 2011’s - were showing great clarity with a medium to deep golden lemon and a slight watery rim. The Langley nose was clean with quite pronounced youthful aromas of apricot and honey followed by a dry palate. The weighty stone fruit and integrated oak supported the high acidity and a 13+% alcohol with a good stretch. Suggested retail price: $60.00.
2011 Estate Chardonnay Damiana Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
The Damiana is more southwesterly in aspect and another 40 feet higher up the mountain than the Langley, sitting at 1930 ft. The Damiana chardonnay was planted in 1978 on shale and mudstone giving rise to its own subtle variations. Cautious citrus on the nose gave way to a more oriental palate of ginger, lemongrass and marmalade and a supportive acidic backbone. The oak is present but does not overwhelm the fruit complexity. I can forgive the Damiana for being secretive on the nose because of the fusion of beautifully balanced flavors that awaited me on the palate. Every taste brought with it another flavor dimension, and for this reason I gave the complex Damiana the Jambip wine favorite award at this tasting. Suggested retail price: $60.00.
2011 Estate Chardonnay Portola Springs Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
At 1920 ft and an easterly 3.5 acres, the Portola Springs is an altogether different creation. The less hospitable steep-sided shale and basalt with silica and quartz and a cool exposure generates a style that seduces the acid hound lovers. It has less of the lushness the Damiana and Langley provided but delivers a powerfully zesty nose with a concentration of lime on the palate and almond and oak for roundness. This style needs food and would pair well with black cod and tomatoes to complement the acidity. This recipe by Martha Stewart on Yummly can be adapted to include green olives and lemon. Suggested retail price: $60.00.
2011 Estate Chardonnay Albutom Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
On a tiny 0.33 parcel, the Albutom equals the Damiana in height at 1930 ft but is on shale and an easterly aspect. These geological differences create a style that is showing white pepper and sliced yellow bell pepper on the nose followed by juicy grapefruit and an abundance of oak on the finish. The acidity is present but is integrated with the oak and the balanced fruit. Suggested retail price: $70.00.
With the clingy coastal fog impairing my view and the full moon acting as helmsman beyond, I was guided back down the mountain and into Silicon Valley. There is comfort in knowing that terroir had played a huge part in characterizing the 2011 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay.
Read the previous post: Typical French Chablis Wine Tasting Video
Read the next post: US Wine Infographic