Faux Chablis: We frequently show our winemaker clients how to make beautiful whites of delicate fragrance, racy struc...Read more...
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I pride myself on being rather well versed in the nuances of Burgundy - my greatest love in all winedom. Nowhere else does true <i>goût de terroir</i> manifest so vividly than in the communes and crus of Burgundy. However, in the context of my day job with Appellation America, our daily tastings tend to be more narrowly focused on wines from North America (hardly a narrow field!), so I was delighted when this wine was presented to me blind. I immediately went straight to the northern reaches of Burgundian Chardonnay – Chablis. The wine is showing some age with a golden yellow color, but still evident are the characteristic slightly green hues of the region. More evidence of the Chablis origin comes in the nose, which displays the clear regional markings of steely minerality and wet stones with pristine lemony fruit. The aromatic complexities are heightened with tertiary characteristics like honey and beeswax, which only come with graceful bottle age. An additional compliment to the aromatic profile is the very subtle whisper of oak toast – Good Chablis is never over-oaked! The final confirmation that this wine is indeed Chablis comes when it hits the palate with its broad boned (but not fleshy), angular and austere mouthfeel, and that tell-tale northern climate acidity. So I lock in my guess. “Chablis!” Answer: <i>Chardonnay, correct. Chablis, wrong.</i> In fact, I was a whole half globe off in my guess for origin. The Chardonnay fruit for this wine was grown in the Student Vineyard of the Napa Valley College. But, in the case of this wine, more important than the source appellation is the winemaker, whose intent could not be more explicit. Clark Smith rarely uses AVA designations on his wines, believing they represent little in terms of guaranteeing a regional style. I’m guessing that, with his Napa Valley designation on this bottling, sitting adjacent to the proprietary name “Faux Chablis”, Clark is making a strong statement to this effect, as this wine is as <i>un-</i>Napa as they get.
Faux Chablis: We frequently show our winemaker clients how to make beautiful whites of delicate fragrance, racy structure and mineral depth, and they often love these wines better than the styles they market. Unhappily, we have yet to persuade a single client that the public shares a taste for these beautiful wines. As an instructor at Napa Valley College, I have waited in line for 9 years to obtain Chardonnay from its wonderful Student Vineyard, overseen by Stephen Krebs, the director of NVC's Viticulture Program. The living soil Steve maintains in this beautifully balanced vineyard imparts in the finish a mineral electricity rarely seen in California whites. We elected to suppress malolactic to maintain the wine's acidity and fresh flowery expression. Bâtonage sur lies and restrained use of well-seasoned Alliers oak impart rich structure, aromatic complexity and reductive strength which invite a few years' cellaring. Our French friends find wry humor in America's only pure-Chardonnay "Chablis." "One California winery is even trying to out-Chablis the Chablisoisie: WineSmith makes an incredibly steely Chardonnay under the name Faux Chablis. I don't know whether Ernst & Young would approve of that name, but the wine is extraordinary" --James Rodewald, Gourmet Magazine, April 2005 Technical Notes: Appellation: New York State Production: 30 Cases Alcohol: Adjusted via recombinatory distillation of reverse osmosis permeate to "sweet spot" at 12.9 % Aging: Restrained use of well seasoned, untoasted Alliers oak Return to Grapecraft-WineSmith wine list
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