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2000 Husch Special Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley

If you cruise through the Anderson Valley either going or coming from the Sonoma coast, you'll wind your way past golden fields dotted with live oaks, and eventually you'll round a bend to find a small sign on the right pointing you up the hill to Husch Vineyards. Other than the grape arbors alongside the driveway, you might think that you're arriving at someones (lovely) little farmhouse. The winery is a small set of buildings perched on the edge of the hill and their tasting room is basically a old grain storage building covered in flowering vines and ivy.

The Husch Winery is the oldest winery in Alexander valley, and bears the name not of the current three-generational owners, the Oswalds, but of the earlier owners who purchased a 60 acre ranch outside of Philo in 1971 and planted the dry rocky soil with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.

While I'm not a fan of their Pinot Noir, and their Gewurztraminer is too sweet for my tastes, they make a couple of excellent Chardonnays. Additionally they also have an estate reserve Merlot available only at their tasting room that is heavily aged oak for a long time, and displays a depth and a complexity that is rare in Merlot from this region. Incidentally, their current release, the 2001 Pinot Noir, marks the 30th anniversary of the first Pinot Noir grown in the Alexander Valley.

Here are the winemaker's notes for this wine:

Selected Chardonnay vines from our original Husch vineyards in the Anderson Valley were chosen for their distinct flavors and aromas and individually harvested. After pressing the whole cluster, the juice was settled and fermented in new Francois Freres oak barrels. During the first six months of aging the lees was stirred every 2 weeks, and during the last 8 months the barrels were topped every 2 weeks for a total of 13 months in the barrels. 100% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation.

Tasting Notes:
This wine looks the way a good Chardonnay should: gorgeous light gold in the glass -- like liquid sunshine. The nose is filled with aromas of pinapple, honesuckle, pear, and nutty, sweet oak. Despite being a 100% malolactic wine it doesn't taste like it's dripping with butter. On the tongue the wine has a nice acidity with flavors of lemon zest and tropical fruits supported by a soft oak structure which resolves into a long finish.

Food Pairing:
This is a lovely balanced Chardonnay that will accompany both lighter and heavier food well. I'd try pairing this one with swordfish steaks with lemon parsley sauce.
Overall Score: 8.5/9

How much?: $25

I picked mine up at the winery itsef, but it is also available on the winery's web site, at K&L, or at various Internet retailers.

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