Sunday, July 17, 2022

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Brown Ranch Carneros Chardonnay 2019

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Brown Ranch Carneros Chardonnay 2019 

This is one of our favorite chardonnays in our cellar right now, produced by Kirk Venge, son of Napa historic and legendary winemaker, Nils Venge. We met Kirk during a visit to Venge Vineyards back in 2005. He has since taken over the family business and developed his own portfolio and brands sourced from several properties across Napa and Sonoma Counties. 

I wrote in more detail about Kirk in a post "Visit to Venge Vineyards and Nils Venge" back in 2021.

I also wrote about how the Venge (as well as Viader) label (s) has become a fun signature label for the family, commemorating daughter-in-law Vivianna, and fun with the V (Viader) labels, in earlier posts.

This single vineyard designated label is from the 30 acre Brown Ranch (formerly associated with Saintsbury Winery and formerly a cattle grazing ranch taking its name from the former owner, Nadine Brown). The vineyard is bordered by two well known storied vineyards, HdV’s Hyde Vineyard and Beaulieu’s Vineyard No.9 on Old Sonoma Road. 

Sitting down in the Los Carneros region at the bottom of Napa Valley where it converges with the bottom of Sonoma Valley, near the confluence of San Pablo Bay. The cool and often foggy climate effects of the Bay allows for a slow growing season and optimal ripening. This climate aids in the balancing of acidity and lifting tropical aromas in the fruit and the resulting finished wine.

The property was purchased in 2012 by the Renterias when many of the twenty nine acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines were afflicted with a fungi disease, Eutypa (otherwise known as the Dead-arm Dieback) causing trunks or arms of the vines to essentially rot and die. Rather than pulling all of these vines out, their vineyard management team decided to keep the rootstock, cut off the trunk just above the soil and allow a bud from the varietal to grow, training it into a new trunk and then trellising it when it became of size. The Brown Ranch’s hillside alluvial soils, with Dijon Clone 76 set atop pre-existing rootstock, make a Chardonnay that is worthy of producing under the Venge name.

Notably, we've been long time fans of a Australian McLaren Vale Valley Shiraz from leading producer d'Arenberg called "Dead Arm", produced from fruit from vines that were similarly afflicted decades ago. The resulting vines with but one arm, (lacking their dead arm), produce rich and concentrated fruit for big bold rich wines. We've collected the Dead Arm label Shiraz dating back to the mid-nineties and still hold nearly a decade of vintages.

Similarly, this Brown's Ranch chardonnay produced from uniquely afflicted vines is rich, full, round and forward yet stylish and balanced.

Winemakers notes: "A light, pale straw presence in the glass with a bouquet of fresh orange citrus, toasted pine nuts, mild allspice, rocky flints, and toasted oak. Crisp, savory pineapple, sweet delicious apple, savory stone fruit, and ripe pear lead into mouthwatering deliciousness."
The Dijon Clones are modern strains of Chardonnay carefully isolated from grapevine nursery blocks in France. These strains are selected for their incredible ability to produce the best of what the varietal has to offer and therefore have become quite popular with cool climate growers today.  The vines were carefully hand harvested and delivered cool to the winery.

The wine is produced according to a Burgundian practice of winemaking wherein the grapes are traditionally whole cluster pressed and allowed to cold settle prior to filling once used French Oak barrels. Venge says their 'light handed usage of new French Oak, keeping it to an average of 45% of their Chardonnay, with gentle stirring of the lees in the early stages of ageing, further develops refined richness and length of body, while keeping the wine clean and fresh'. The wine is aged for 15 months. 65% native malolactic fermentation to build complexity and body, without compromising the structural integrity of the wine.

Bottled unfiltered, 395 cases were produced.

Golden straw colored, medium full bodied, rich, round flavorful apple and pear fruits with layers of notes of caramel crème brûlée, mineral and citrus with spicy oak on the finish. 

RM 92 points.