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09.21.2004

2002 Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros

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.

Tasting Notes:
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.

Food Pairing:
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.

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