Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2007 Sarah's Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Clara Valley

In 1977 Marilyn Clark and John Otterman bought a 10 acre property off Hecker Pass Road. They planted 7 acres of Chardonnay and named it Sarah's Vineyard. The first Estate vintage was made in 1983. The winery quickly established a reputation for wines of richness and depth with good aging potential. The winery stood apart from its neighbours, at a time when most of Santa Clara valley was producing cheap 'jug' wine. No expense was spared; even the labels were reportedly printed on stock normally reserved for wedding invitations, printed by a company that produced banknotes using a custom die made by an engraver from Smith & Wesson. However as time went on the price increased drastically while the quality became more variable. By the late 1990s the Estate Chardonnay cost $45 or more a bottle, but was only getting 80 points when reviewed by Wine Spectator.

In 2001 the winery was purchased by Tim Slater, who set about revitalising both the vines and the brand. The estate vineyards were replanted or retrellised, the buildings were renovated and extended, and a stack of brand new high-tech equipment was installed including a neat compact bottling line and a small but sophisticated laboratory. The winery currently produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their estate vineyards and the Santa Cruz Mountains. They also source a range of Rhone varieties from the nearby Besson Vineyard, itself notable for providing Grenache to Bonny Doon's Cigare Volant for over 20 vintages.

The good news is that the 2007 Sarah's Vineyard Estate Chardonnay is far more reasonably priced than it would have been 10 years ago - $30 at the winery, but I've seen it as low as $20 at retail. It shows lots of toasty oak on the nose; On the palate there's apricot, lemon, cream and vanilla, with a rich, almost oily mouthfeel. The oak is very prominent on the finish. Despite its youth this bottle was already starting to show some mature notes; given the low acidity I wouldn't plan on holding it for more than another year. 88