I was first introduced to Saintsbury wines through their Garnet Pinot Noir, which is a Carneros pinot made in a lighter style with less oak and more fruit, and a really nice wine for buying by the truckload and drinking every day. Saintsbury is one of the moderately large commercial producers in Napa that in my opinion is still maintaining high levels of quality and boutique style winemaking processes. They pretty much abjure filtering and they are not afraid of making wine in time consuming ways like fermenting and barrelling all of their vineyard lots separately to be blended as a final step.
Saintsbury, named after George Saintsbury, an English author known and loved for his work "Notes on A Cellar Book" was started in 1981 as a small operation by two winemakers (Richard Ward and David Graves) who were interested in making California Pinot Noir a respectable wine. Saintsbury still focuses on Pinot as well as Chardonnay, the two mainstays of Carneros.
Ward and Graves have scaled their operation from an initial couple thousand cases to nearly sixty thousand and now their wines are found in grocery stores and large liquor chains in addition to the small wine shops where they got their start.
This Chardonnay is a blend of grapes from 8 different Carneros vineyards. It was fermented in French Oak barrels and aged for about 8 months on the lees with batonnage (lots of stirring). The wine has gone through full malolactic fermentation but because of the lees and the batonnage the oily buttery over-oaked flavors that can sometimes accompany wines that have been pushed through full malolactic are nicely absent. It is unfined and unfiltered. 13,400 cases were made.
The color of light straw in the glass, this wine has a cool, soothing nose of apples and wet slate. In the mouth it has light oak flavors but is dominated by crisp flavors of quartz, pears, and unripe apples bound together by a nice acidity. It is certainly a Carneros Chardonnay, but done closer to a European style than most I have had from the region. A good choice for those in the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) camp these days.
This is a great fish wine with its slightly elevated acidity, so try it with something creamy and substantial like swordfish steaks with lemon-parsley sauce.
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $17
This wine is readily available online and through major retailers including BevMo.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015 Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014 Vinography Images: Rich Skies Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014 A Grape By Any Other Name
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune