The beloved Chardonnay will flourish in any climate, making it a fairly “low maintenance” project for even the most inexperienced winemaker. Unfortunately, this has lead to a worldwide overproduction of mediocre Chardonnays and I personally have been victimized at countless tastings. The pessimist in me has started to expect a flat, butter-oak taste devoid of any structure or depth; As if the winemaker carelessly threw the harvest in French Oak barrels then neglected it for 6 months in hopes that it would develop into something quaffable. I started to wonder if the wine judges had defective palate leading them to appreciate this characterless wine or if perhaps they had actually experienced the flavors of caramel apples in their goblets, as they claimed.
This curiosity sent me tasting down Westside Road. My journey started with tastings being poured into the spit bucket, but soon enough I discovered the crisp, fruity, complex flavors people rave about. Virginia Marie Lambrix (VML Winery), a relatively new winemaker on Westside Road, could potentially destroy Chardonnay; wine making veterans. Her first vintage, released in 2010, will easily trump other Chardonnays at upcoming wine tasting competitions, raising the bar for Russian River Chardonnays. Finally, something of quality!
I took a tour of VML Winery to learn how Ms. Lambrix had accomplished the art of perfecting a Chardonnay. The science of harvesting, fermentation, and aging is at the winemakers discretion, but the storage is what can easily turn a great Chardonnay into a substandard Chardonnay. In order to ensure that the Chardonnay develops as the winemaker has intended, storing bottles at 60 degrees in a dark, damp place is crucial. Wine cellars or coolers with humidity and temperature control can make suitable storage conditions. Storing unopened bottles on their sides, so the cork remains wet, is vital to the Chardonnay keeping its complexity. Dry corks shrink and allow the wine to oxidize.
I am satisfied to report I did find a worthy Chardonnay, and in that quest bolstered my knowledge on the importance of proper storage. Chardonnay naysayers, do yourself a favor and visit VML Winery. As you can see from the picture above, I am now on to their Pinot