Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trio of value priced summer chardonnays

Trio of value priced chardonnays for summer - Rutherford Hill, Toad Hollow, Sonoma-Cutrer - One each from Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.

Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009 

Tasted at Norman's Bistro in Kenwood District, Chicago.

Light straw color. Aromas of lemon, honey, vanilla with hint of orange blossom. Full-bodied with crisp acidity of citrus, vanilla bean and flinty mineral accents.

RM 89 points.

Horinzontal selection of large format 1981 vintage wines for our
daughter Erin's birthyear - served at her wedding
I have fond memories of Rutherford Hill wines and I try to support their efforts. Nestled in the foothills on the eastern slope overlooking central Napa Valley, Rutherford Hill is part of the Terlato Wine Group of Illinois portfolio of wineries, who purchased this winery in 1996. I met one of the principles of the previous ownership group, Jeff Jaegar at a winetasting in Naperville in the early nineties. He was representing Freemark Abbey at the time and helped me procure a case of Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Upon learning of my collection of large format bottles commemorating my kid's birthyears (the basis of my feature in Collecting section of Wine Spectator) he sent me a Imperial of Jaegar Vineyards Merlot 1981, and I was able to obtain another of Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1981, both of which we served at our daughter Erin's wedding.

Toad Hollow Mendocino County Chardonnay 2009

This is the seventeenth vintage for Toad Hollow, named by actor owner Robbin Williams for his brother Todd as a remembrance of when he was a toddler and couldn't pronounce his name hence calling him Toad!

Our friend and favored producer Robert Craig of Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons fame was consulting winemaker for them for many years when he was crafting his expertise up on Mt Veeder.

Fruity, crisp, clean, steely, peaches, grapefruit, and citrus, melon and green apple. A bit too flinty to my preference, but the lowest price of the three too.

RM 85 points.

Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009

This is a popular producer with a selection of chardonnays that are common wine list selections in many restaurants that are a safe bet as they tend to be consistent with high QPR - Quality Price Ratio. The 2009 vintage was the first release of this wine under new winemaker Terry Adams. The fruit was sourced from select lots of some of the finest vineyards in Sonoma, including the Cutrer Vineyard and Vine Hill, as well as Kent, Shiloh, and Owsley. The wine was barrel-fermented (90% of the wine went through maloactic fermentation) and aged for six to eight months sur lie in 20% new French oak. The resulting wine is full-bodied with a bright gold color, a rich, creamy mid-palate, and aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, puff pastry, toffee, and baking spice. The acidity that comes from the cool-climate Cutrer fruit results in a wine that shows nice balance with hints of minerals and toasty oak.
Winemaker's notes:
Rich and intense aromas of honey, apple pie, butterscotch and roasted hazelnuts are complimented with citrus notes of lemon blossom and lemon curd. This wine fills the mouth with rich texture, a round and creamy mid-palate is supported by that signature Sonoma-Cutrer clean, citrus-laced acidity that creates an excellent balance. Fruit flavors of baked apple, lemon curd, pear and melon are accented with a complimentary bit of toasty oak.

RM 90 points.