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08.31.2004

2001 Schweiger Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa

Perched on the crest of Napa's famous Spring Mountain, Schweiger's vineyards are some of the highest in Napa. Owner Fred Schweiger's parents purchased the estate in 1960, and the first commercial harvest was in 1984. Like many winegrowing families in Napa, the Schweigers started out selling their grapes to others (Cafaro, ZD, Newton and Stags Leap to name a few) but in 1994 the family decided to start making their own wine from the classic Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay vines that flourished in this hilltop winery.

This wine was puzzling to me to drink because I found it highly oak-driven and traditional, yet the winemaking would not have led me to believe it was so. Only 20% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation, and while it was barrel fermented in French oak, only 30% of it was new. It was left in contact with its lees (pulp, seeds, skins, and other detritus of the crushing process) which can mellow the tannic impacts of the oak.

All of these things would have led me to believe that this was more a Burgundian style of Chardonnay than Napa, and even the Schweiger family said this was their intent, yet I found the wine to be fairly mainstream California.

Tasting Notes:
The color of light straw, this wine has a very apple-ly and mineral nose for a Chardonnay, with strong green apple, honey, and lemon zest aromas. In the mouth, though, it is fairly traditional California Chardonnay, leading with heavy flavors of sweet American oak, butterscotch, cream, and burn toast surrounding a core of light fruit. The finish is nice and long with mineral components, but with more buttered toast flavor. A good example of the type of Chardonnay that some love to hate, but highly drinkable if you don't belong to that camp.

Food Pairing:
I might serve this with a heartier, rich poultry dish, like this chicken with mustard and tarragon cream sauce.

Overall Score: 8.5

How Much?: $27

This wine is currently sold out, and can only be found in restaurants or the odd retailer who still has some in stock.

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