Friday, August 11, 2023

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Chardonnay 2017

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Chardonnay 2017

Friday night stay at home movie date night, we opened this premium Napa Valley Chardonnay with a plate of artisan cheeses, ham and sweet gherkins. We served this producer's Newton Napa Valley Cabernet in a large format 6-liter Imperial bottle from our son Alec's birth year vintage at his wedding celebration welcome reception back in 2021. We wrote about that in this blogpost - Big Bottle Birthyear wines for Wedding Celebration at the time. (Our collection of large format bottles for our kids' birth years was the basis for our cellar being featured in the Collecting section of Wine Spectator Magazine back in June 2001).

Newton was founded in 1977 by English businessman Peter Newton and his Chinese wife Su Hua. Peter Newton was already renowned as a pioneer Napa Valley winemaker having founded Sterling Winery near Calistoga in the 1960s. We visited Sterling with its Disneyland like aerial skylift up to the mountaintop art museum and winery in the late seventies during our very first trip to Napa Valley. 

Peter Newton developed a single square mile of hillside on high up Spring Mountain in 1977. The site's terraced mountain estate has less than one-fifth of its total 490 acres planted to vines at elevations ranging from 500 to 1,600 feet above sea level. The non-farmed acreage remains in its native forested state providing natural habitat for indigenous wildlife.

The Newtons transformed one square mile of rolling hillside in Spring Mountain into one of the Napa Valley’s most prestigious estates, whose wines have graced the official dinners of several US presidents. The Newton estate encompasses 170 acres of prime Napa Valley terroir, distributed over four separate, wholly owned vineyards: Spring Mountain, Yountville, Mount Veeder and Carneros. 

Newton is known for producing wines that are uniquely characterful expressions of varietals emblematic of the Napa Valley, notably Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

For this Chardonnay, they source grapes primarily from the Napa Carneros AVA,  along with Rutherford, and with small quantities coming from Mendocino Ridge AVAs.

Carneros is marked by well-drained soils and rolling hills that border the San Pablo Bay. Sea breezes from the nearby bay, combined with morning and afternoon fog, keep temperatures cool and consistent. As a result, the area supports a long growing season, which allows grapes to achieve even and optimal ripeness—leading to wines of exceptional length and freshness. Rutherford is located in the heart of Napa Valley, is characterized by warmer days and richer soils. Rutherford fruit adds volume and body to the blend. 

Winemaker notes - Nose of tropical fruit, vanilla and lemon merangue. Medium to full bodied, lots of honey, some beeswax, and citrus flavors. Some butter and toast as well. Still a bit oaky, but not to a level as to interfere with enjoyment of this wine. 

This is barrel-fermented and unfiltered making the wine very creamy on the palate. A classic fragrant with orange blossom aromas, dry, mouth-filling on the palate with white florals, ripe red apple, pear, tropical fruit and toasty oak spice flavours. - Community Wine Reviews

This was awarded 93 points byJames Suckling and 91 points by Natalie McClean.

A style signature of Newton: Elegant and precise, excellent balance between freshness, complexity, richness and structure.

Straw colored, medium to full bodied, bright expressive, complex, dense forward ripe stone, pear and apple fruits with a pronounced layer of distinctive butterscotch. 

RM 92 points.

Lunch at Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park after FLW Tour

Lunch at Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park after FLW Tour features delightful casual sipping WBTG pairing

College friends and Linda's sorority sister Sara and husband Chuck were in town to visit family and friends. We met up and arranged to host them on a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park where I am a docent interpreter. Afterwards we met two other sisters and their partners for lunch at Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park

Hemingway's Bistro is one of our favorite dinesites and one we love to combine my tour activities at the Frank Lloyd Wright home just blocks away with lunches or dinners for such occasions. We've featured some of those tour and dining outings in these pages' blogposts -

Hemingway's Bistro Wine Dinner Highlights FLW Architecture Tours

FLW Home & Studio Tour and Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park

Linda and I ordered the daily special fresh fish, Walleye served with crab cake crust, mashed potatoes and haricot verts. With our lunch, we ordered WBTG - wines by the glass, a Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Northern Rhône Crozes-Hermitage Sryah.

Before our entrees, I ordered for a starter course the Chicken Liver Pate'. As an accompaniment I had a glass of the Crozes-Hermitage. 

Paul Jaboulet Aîné "Les Jalets" Crozes-Hermitage 2017

Paul Jaboulet Aîné owns parcels of vines in several Rhône appellations both north and south, and produces an extensive range of both estate bottled and négociant wines. Paul Jaboulet Aîné is one of the most prolific producers in the Northern Rhône, notably in Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage. 

The earliest record of the Jaboulet family producing wine dates back to 1834, and the eventual house of Paul Jaboulet Aîné remained in Jaboulet family ownership until 2006. It was then sold to the Frey family, proprieters of Ch La Lagune in Bordeaux, and numerous other vineyards and labels.

Frey obtained the famous brand names such as Hermitage "La Chapelle" and Crozes Hermitage "Domaine de Thalabert", but not all of the vineyards historically used for producing those wines. Notably the vineyard used to produce Crozes Hermitage "Domaine de Thalabert" - a vineyard historically known as Les Grandes Vignes - was split, with part remaining under the control of Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet. Frey succeeded in restoring the reputation of Paul Jaboulet Aîné which had fallen away during the 1990s.

Domaine de Raymond Roure is a nine acre Crozes Hermitage vineyard high on the back of the Hermitage hill which Jaboulet acquired in 1996. The red now sells at a premium to Thalabert and is the wine for longer keeping.

Les Jalets is a modest priced casual sipper with good QPR - quality price ratio, from the Northern Rhône Crozes Hermitage AVA that produces distinctive earthy dark fruity Shiraz/Syrahs. 

Bright garnet colored, medium to full-bodied with lively expressive forward briery blackcurrant and red berry fruits accented by black pepper, licorice, spices and savory truffle notes with a tongue puckering tangy acidity on a moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 89 points.

This was awarded 92 points by Decanter and commented by Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Advocate.

With our entree course Linda and I both selected this lively Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley.

Lake Sonoma Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020 

Another modest priced good QPR selection served BTG from the winelist.
Lake Sonoma Winery produces a range of red and white wines from across the Sonoma County winegrowing region representing its diverse assemblages of terroirs and micro-climates.  This diversity is expressed through Sonoma’s sub-appellations, many of which are renowned for specific varietals that thrive in each. 

Lake Sonoma Winery work with the most celebrated of these sub-appellations to offer their portfolio of  wines designed that showcase the region’s unique characteristics and the varietal for which it has come to be known.

This moderate priced Chardonnay is sourced from Lake Sonoma estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley

Lake Sonoma Winery’s winemaker, Jaime “JJ” Dowell joined Lake Sonoma Winery in 2021 after spending time in New Zealand managing the production of a high-end Pinot Noir at Villa Maria Estate in Blenheim. 

The native Californian started out working as an Associate Winemaker alongside highly regarded Jean Hoefliger at Alpha Omega Winery in Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA for five-years. She then took over winemaking duties at Round Pond Estate before moving to Lake Sonoma Winery on the other side of the Mayacamas Mountain range that separates Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

When she arrived this wine was still in barrel. The previous winemaker made the decisions on harvest and fermentation, and left it to her successor to blend the final bottled wine. JJ put her spin on things, and through the blending, the identity was crafted. 

Winemaker Notes: "This classic Chardonnay expresses the best of the Russian River Valley appellation through vibrant citrus and tropical fruit aromas with hints of vanilla.  Bright fruit flavors including kiwi, lime and nectarine round out the palate followed by a rich and lingering finish."

The wine was left on the lees for three months to enhance the mid-palate richness. Aged for 22 months in 20% new French oak, 50% neutral oak and 30% stainless steel tanks.

This was delightful and a perfect complement to the walleye fresh fish special. 

Straw colored, medium bodied, balanced and flavorful peach, and tangerine citrus fruit flavors with accents of lychee tropical fruit on a smooth elegant lingering finish. 

RM 90 points.

Previous lunch and dinner dining experiences at Hemingway's Bistro featured in these pages:

Roots Klee Pinot Noir Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Hemingway's Bistro Wine Dinner Highlights FLW Architecture Tours

Château La Couspaude St Emilion Grand Cru Classé with Hemingway's Oak Park French Fare

Festive Holiday Dinner at Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park

Anniversary Dinner at Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park

Lunch at Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park

Wine BTG with small plates at Hemingway's Oak Park

FLW Home & Studio Tour and Hemingway's Bistro Oak Park