Specialty Club – November 2011

2008 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello Chardonnay
Most club members are familiar with Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, since their wonderful Zinfandels have graced our shelves since we bought the shop in 2000. However, not as many are aware that Ridge is justly acclaimed for award-winning Cabernets and Chardonnays, and, more recently, for Petite Sirah and Rhone varietals. The Chardonnay in the Monte Bello vineyard was originally planted in 1949 and first made into a single vineyard wine in 1962. By 1985, yields from these vines had dropped to unsustainable levels, and the vineyard was replanted. When these new vines matured in 1999, winemaker Paul Draper revived the Monte Bello Chardonnay label, each year selecting grapes from a couple of the best parcels for this flagship wine. The grapes are whole cluster pressed and then the native yeasts perform a full malolactic fermentation. It’s aged sixteen months in barrel, but only 10% are new American oak. Paul’s philosophy of minimal intervention shows off mountain California Chardonnay at its absolute best. Its $60 and very elegant, with spicy apple and pear flavors and aromas, balanced by citrus notes. Try it with Copper River salmon. It’s pretty much ready to go, although up to five more years in the bottle certainly won’t hurt it! Since only a handful of cases came to Seattle, we put every bottle we could get into this club.

2008 Au Bon Climat, Pinot Noir, “Isabelle”
And here’s another iconic wine from one of California’s top wineries! Jim Clendenen founded Au Bon Climat in the Bien Nacido Vineyard of Santa Barbara County in 1982. In the early nineties, Jim became one of the first winemakers in California to pursue organic viticulture and he has probably received more “Winemaker of the Year” awards from top publications than almost anyone else. Bear loved his wines; those who stayed until the end of Bear’s wake were able to share the magnificent 1993 Au Bon Climat La Bauge Au-dessus Pinot Noir from his cellar. The Isabelle cuvee started the next year as a blend of the very best barrels in honor of Jim’s daughter. A blend of all of Jim’s sites (Bien Nacido, Sanford & Benedict, Talley, Rincon, and Mount Carmel), it is a wine of depth, complexity and focus. It jumped out of the glass for us when we tasted it, although it will continue to develop for another ten years in the cellar. Its soft tannins and rich mouth feel would make it a good match for many foods, particularly something spicy like Cuban pork stew. It’s $45 and very limited, since again only a few cases made it to Seattle.