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The Best Chardonnay You'll Drink This Year

Katherine Guzman | February 18, 2014 | Story Wine and Spirits

On a recent trip to Napa and Sonoma, I tasted a lot of chardonnays and prefacing every pour was someone uttering the words "Burgundian style" which lead me to wonder what that even means anymore. Because what so often ends up in the glass is a drinkable hyperbole of whichever interpretation they so choose, either the extremely rich and oaked or all the stainless steel "unoaked" version. In truth, there is nothing wrong with either of these iterations (to each their own, right?), but the hardest mark to hit, and that piece of Burgundy that they all seem to be missing, is the ever elusive balance.

Theoretically, the concept of balance is easy: just enough body, just enough alcohol and just enough acidity. However, so ambiguous is that one word when it comes to wine that a whole group has been created to help define it and celebrate the winemakers who have achieved it. Focusing on pinot noir and chardonnay, the In Pursuit of Balance website lists in their Manifesto of Balance, "A new [chardonnay] movement is afoot led by a generation of winemakers equally at ease discussing Burgundy, The Jura, and the Sonoma Coast. These producers are taking the kind of risks necessary to create truly compelling Chardonnay[...] The resultant wines, moderate in alcohol and flush with acidity, do what great wines do: give a clear translation of time and place."

I was having lunch on the Reuling vineyard just outside of Forestville, in the Sonoma Coast AVA. I was poured a glass of their yet-to-be-released 2012 Chardonnay and took a sip. I was expecting to find it "nice" and then move on to their wonderful 2011 Pinot Noir, released last fall. What I found, however, was a Chardonnay so harmonious, so complex and so perfectly balanced that my poker face gave way to a giddy grin. In fact, looking around the table, suddenly the professionalism was melting off nearly all of the journalists' faces around me. The wine was paired with a dungeness crab salad and each sip was like another forkful of crab: a mouthy richness, almost creamy, laced with a clean minerality and crisp citrusy bite that gave way to the long, lingering umami-filled finish. When I closed my eyes, it was almost impossible to distinguish one from the other. I couldn't get enough and continued to drink it with each subsequent course after. It was back on Chardonnay and this was my new favorite.

The 2012 Chardonnay, the aforementined 2011 Pinot and a soon-to-be-released 2013 Rosé are the first vintages for Reuling. For the past nine years their grapes have created some of the most critically acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the country, including wine produced by Aubert and Peter Michael but they are finally producing their own wines. The 2012 Chardonnay is set to be released in April but I'm telling you now because, like all great wines, there is limited availability. Get on their mailing list or go beg your local wine shop to carry it. Reuling Vineyard's wines can be found at Boulevard Restaurant, Hayes Street Grille and K & L wine merchant, among others.


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