How much do I like drinking chardonnay?
This actually happened on March 13, 2006. I found myself in a most unexpected environment as I was suspended weightless in a void in which geometric shapes such as spheres, cones and pyramids floated around me. Before you conclude that I had possibly indulged in some prohibited substance, let me explain that I had just endured eight-and-a-half hours of carotid, and open-heart surgery. I could not decide whether I had survived or not, but then my hand was squeezed and I knew that my wife was there. The first words that I uttered were: “Boy I could do with a good glass of Shafer chardonnay”. She knew that I was OK and would emerge from my drugged state very well.
The correct name is Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2012. The name honours the red-shouldered hawks that patrol this organically farmed vineyard by day to control the rodent population. I remember John Shafer pointing out the tall posts put there for the birds to rest on. Other posts were topped with owl family houses so they could take over these duties at nightfall. Shafer never puts their chardonnay through that second fermentation called malolactic, as they feel that it puts some distance between the final product and the naturalness of their wine. Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar rated the 2012 92/100, and in May 2014 suggested that it would be even better in May of this year. He writes: “Pungent aromas of mirabelle, orange blossom, white currant and subtle oak lifted by a floral high note. Densely packed and firm with bright acidity and a hint of minerality intensifying the peach and citrus flavours.”
He goes on to say: “This wine has changed 180 degrees in recent vintages, from opulent and very oaky to still quite dense, but with more clarity and energy.” So, many wineries are holding the oak influence to much lower levels than they did only a few years ago. $67.50. If Shafer is our very special occasion (like surviving!) chardonnay, we also need to consider that Monday- to Thursday-night wine.
I must retell you about the Fabre Montmayou Chardonnay 2014 Reserva. This small, French-owned winery in Argentina just does such a fine job on all their wines. I mean, for $15.50 you get a wine that is made from hand-picked grapes that are meticulously sorted to ensure only the best fruit makes it to the presses. Twenty per cent is fermented in French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel. It has a complex bouquet of tropical fruits such as pineapple and bananas. The oak adds well-integrated hints of butter and toasted bread. On the palate it is fresh and unctuous with very good structure. If I restricted the description to one word, it would have to be “yummy”.
Although Oyster Bay is the most asked-for New Zealand range of wines in Bermuda, it is usually their sauvignon blanc that folks are seeking. You really should give their chardonnay 2014 a try as it is a well-made example of the use of this grape that truly captures the character of Marlborough with its pure, incisive, ripe-fruit flavours. It is a combination of barrel and tank fermentation and the stirring of lees achieves maximum softness, integration and texture.
Like the Shafer family, the Oyster Bay crew avoids converting malic acid to lactic acid through a second fermentation caused by bacteria (malolactic). They have also concentrated on clonal influences in their vineyard as they seek smaller berries that enhance flavour intensity. For $18.95 you can experience aromas and flavours of ripe citrus, and stone fruit such as peaches and apricots.
•This is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). Their wines, beers and spirits are available at www.wineonline.bm.