Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Pahlmeyer Jayson Napa Chardonnay with Grilled Salmon

Pahlmeyer Jayson Napa Chardonnay with Grilled Salmon

In pursuit of balanced and healthy eating, we grilled out salmon with roasted potatoes and asparagus. I pulled from the cellar this vintage Napa Chardonnay for a enjoyable pairing,

I always keep this label on hand in memory of dear friends' departed son with that same name that we hold and serve to honor and toast him when common acquaintances and we are together. 

We have several bottles in this collection so I pulled this, the oldest vintage to consume as part of cellar management, also, it was his birthday recently so this was with him/that in mind as well.  

Jayson Pahlmeyer was a successful trial attorney who started becoming hooked by the wine industry and slowly phased out his law practice in pursuit of developing his own wines. He partnered with John Caldwell, owner of a 55-acre site in south-east Napa Valley. Together, they began planting French clones of red Bordeaux varieties.

“All I wanted to do was to create my own ‘California Mouton’ – a rich, powerful Napa Valley Bordeaux blend, a wine that would drop wine lovers to their knees,” says Jayson Pahlmeyer.

He made several trips to France to find some of the highest quality Bordeaux varietal clones, seeking assistance over several years from viti-cultural professors at the University of Bordeaux who analyzed the soil samples, exposure, rainfall and temperature data from Napa. 

Jayson and his partner were able to acquire Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec vines and managed to smuggle their “suitcase clones” through Canada and then took them back to California where he planted his own vineyard.

“My closest advisors, Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer told me ‘If you want to be a first-growth, you have to have your own vineyards,’” says Jayson Pahlmeyer. “I found this property in the eastern hills of Napa Valley that was owned by the Waters family - an incredible parcel with views to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline. John did the soil analysis, David Abreu studied the terrain, and speaking for all of them, Helen proclaimed it ‘paradisal’. It was rocky, desolate, low vigor, with good drainage. Perfect for growing Bordeaux varieties.

“I hired David Abreu to develop it, and Helen and Erin Green, Helen’s protégé and our longtime winemaker, selected the clones, which included those smuggled from Bordeaux that I had been using since my 1986 vintage.”

Planted in 1981, the French cuttings slowly adjusted. Pahlmeyer Wine released their first vintage in 1986 with the help of Randy Dunn, one of California’s foremost winemakers, the Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red was made and launched.

Helen Turley took over winemaking in 1993 and further improved the quality and consistency of Pahlmeyer wines. They started producing wine at the Napa Wine Co in 1994 soon after Napa Wine Co underwent a huge renovation to accommodate production from wineries who do not actually have their own physical winery at the time.

Jayson’s daughter Cleo joined the team in 2008.

Today, the winemaker is Bibiana Gonzalez Rave. She received her oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux and has worked at estates in Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma Valley and other locations in addition to Napa Valley. She was named Winemaker of the Year for 2015 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jason Pahlmeyer understood that making wines with exceptional concentration, complexity, and ageability required venturing to extremes. That’s what drew him to the rugged parcel of vines on the ridgeline of Atlas Peak that would become his iconic estate vineyard. 
The Pahlmeyer estate vineyards include Water’s Ranch, Stagecoach, and Antica parcels, that all sit above 1,400 feet elevation where they benefit from three more hours of sunshine per day compared to lower altitudes that are often cloaked in morning fog. This additional sunlight ensures the berries achieve a deep, rich color and complex flavor compounds. 
Location, map and technical information for Pahlmeyer Estate Vineyard.
Over the years, the portfolio grew to also include the "Jayson" brand that includes several reds, and a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines that sourced from lower elevation vineyard sites including some on the valley floor and in the Carneros region at the lower end of Napa Valley near San Pablo Bay.

With daytime temperatures averaging 5-10 F cooler, our mountain vines respire less acidity to produce energy; the acidity retained in the grapes results in greater freshness and balance in the wines. Cooler temperatures also prolong the growing season, allowing the clusters to hang longer on the vine and achieve optimal flavor development. The Pahlmeyer Rancho Chimiles parcel, while slightly lower in elevation, sits close to the San Pablo Bay and enjoys cooling afternoon breezes that moderate temperature.

We love Pahlmeyer wines and have served special large format bottles of our son's birthyear vintage bottles at his wedding celebration and birthday dinners as posted in these pages -  

Pahlmeyer Caldwell Vineyard Napa Valley Red Blend 1990, and,

Wedding Wines - Birthyear and Big Bottle Extravaganza Continues

Pahlmeyer "Jayson" Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015 

Tonight this big bold rich Jayson Chardonnay was ideal with our grilled salmon dinner. 
This wine is a marriage of three distinctive Napa Valley regions: bright, elegant Carneros hillside; and rich, ripe St. Helena valley floor; with intense mountain fruit at its core. 
Winemaker notes - Across our sites, we employ tunneling (pulling internal leaves) in our canopy management to increase airflow without risking berry integrity. The finished wine has a fresh and bright palate with beautiful aromatics and just enough intensity and richness to impart an unmistakable gravitas. Aging in heavily toasted François Frères barrels allow pure fruit aromatics to be front and center with a subtle butterscotch and salted caramel underscore."  

"The grapes were hand-sorted and gently whole-cluster pressed. After settling overnight, the juice was racked to barrels for 100% native yeast barrel fermentation followed by malo-lactic fermentation. The wine was aged in 85% new French oak barrels for eleven months on the lees, which were stirred weekly.'

This 100% Napa Chardonnay has a striking golden color and is rich and weighty, but very complex and savory at the same time. It's a powerful wine that doesn't need to assert its dominance. The flavors are more spiced than fruity, and you might catch hints of smoked vanilla and flint."

This release was awarded 92 points by Wine Spectator who set a drinking window through 2022. Cellartracker's put the drinking window through 2021.
At eight years of age, the fill level, label, foil and most importantly the cork were all ideal. This was likely at the end of its prime drinking window, not likely to improve, but rather likely to start to diminish going forward, so it was time to drink. 
As shown above, this was deep golden colored, medium full bodied, rich full bold apple and tropical and stone fruit flavors with hints of pineapple with a rich layer of vanilla and caramel/butterscotch with accents of oak, grapefruit and minerality on a roasted nut finish acidic finish. 
Fellow Cellartracker Baron Slick summed up this wine well in his post, "With an antique golden appearance and a good amount of tartaric crystals in the glass, this comes across much older than its vintage. Autolytic whiffs of butterscotch, spiced pears, caramel, and soft toast show bottle age maturity. It's long and neatly balanced, with lots textural personalty to sweet baking spice and orchard fruit flavors."

RM 91 points.