Dr Kirk Neely is the owner of several acres in Portola Valley, just north of the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. In 1980 Jim and Bob Varner began planting vines on the south-easterly slope of the delightfully named Bozzo Gulch, and Spring Ridge Vineyards was born. Initially the vineyard was planted with Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, much of it on its own roots. The Varners farmed the land effectively organically with the fruit being sold to Thomas Fogarty and Bargetto.
After working at Fogarty for some years the brothers decided to open their own winery, and the Varner label was launched with the 1996 vintage. The following year they planted the "Hidden Block" Pinot Noir and more recently grafted the "Picnic Block" Gewurztraminer over to 777 clone Pinot Noir.
Three Chardonnays carry the Varner label, each produced from a different block in the vineyard. The Home block was the first to be planted and is own-rooted, as is the Ampitheater block; the Bee block is grafted. In addition a fourth wine is produced; a blend of barrels sourced from each of the three blocks. This is released under the Neely label in tribute to the vineyard's owner.
All the wines are produced in the same way - no pesticides except for sulphur to control mildew, no irrigation, no added yeasts - so the differences between the wines are purely down to the individual vines and microclimates.
2004 Neely "Holly's Cuvee" Chardonnay
Soapy nose with pear, lewmon and oak. On the palate there's rich, concentrated fruit - pear, peach, kiwi, lanolin and brine. A slightly oaky bite on the finish - still needs time. 94
2006 Neely "Holly's Cuvee" Chardonnay
Nose shows vanilla, pineapple, guava and some spiciness (botrytis? surely not). Rich, sweet tropical fruit, lime and mineral notes, with oak showing on the long finish. This is delicious. 94
2007 Varner "Home Block" Chardonnay
Nose seemed reductive; not showing much at this stage. Compared to the two Neelys it's lighter in weight with flavours of mineral, lemon, pear and melon and a medium finish. 89+