Chardonnay is the number 1 selling wine in the world and in California alone there are 100,000 acres planted. It’s a very versatile wine with flavors and textures that can go from very tropical, to creamy and buttery, to minerally and it is even the primary white varietal used to make Champagne. Of all the varieties Chardonnay has been most popular with women and with so many different incarnations it’s easy to see why. This year I got to attend the Chardonnay Symposium for the first time and it was quite an event, with wine makers and Chardonnays from all over the world.
The “line-up featured two grand wine tastings, educational seminars & panel sessions, winemaker dinners and plenty of opportunities to talk Chardonnay with industry leaders, taste makers and fellow enthusiasts”. With so many different activities it was only natural that this event should span multiple days, and it was literally 2.5 days of just nonstop awesomeness and education. It was all chardonnay all the time and there were great seminars about oaking or not oaking, the evolution of chardonnay, food pairing, grand tastings and more. The event took place at various venues throughout the south county of San Luis Obispo and was hosted by Parker Sanpei & Assoc and Somm Journal.
There were multiple seminar options that I had to choose from which was very difficult since I wanted to go to all of them. So I started with the To Oak or Not to Oak seminar at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. The Moderator was Master Sommelier Brian McClintic and on the panel was Peter Molnar – Poseidon Vineyards, Karl Wente – Wente Vineyards, Ray Brown- Clos de Chacras, Dieter Cronje-Presqu’ile Winery, Christian Roguenant- Niven Family Wines all who brought Chardonnays, oaked and unoaked for the attendees to try. Each winemaker had a particular take on whether to oak or not to oak. Karl felt that the impact of new oak offers toasty out front oak flavors, where as Dieter said he avoids new oak because it overshadows the grapes. Christian stated that he liked both styles but the winemaker had to have a clear vision for what notes from each style they wanted to pull to produce the final product, and Peter liked to use larger format 100% French oak barrels that had undergone a long low 80 minute toasting process. By the end of the seminar some of the key take aways were: the clone varietals have a lot of influence on the decision because there are such dramatic differences between them; the wines can be made to drink immediately or aged for 5-7 years, sometimes longer; Battonage (stirring the lees) while aging the wine in oak incorporates oxygen making a creamier more complex wine; picking decisions make a huge difference in whether certain grapes are chosen for oak barrels or stainless steel; cool climate Chards are the best because warm climate Chards lose minerality and have a tendency to become flabby. Lastly they all agreed that if something wasn’t done to adjust for the unsustainable demand for oak, it would eventually lead to much more unoaked wine and any oaked wines would be extremely expensive.
The following day I attended 2 events and the first grand tasting. The morning session was the Wisconsin Cheese Compliments Acclaimed Chardonnay seminar hosted by the Sea Venture Hotel and moderated by author Laura Werlin who brought a bunch of Wisconsin cheeses to pair with some local wines. The wineries represented were Patz & Hall -Anne Moses, J. Lohr -Lawrence Lohr, Adelaida Cellars– Jeremy Weintraub, and Melville Vineyards & Winery– Greg Brewer. I love cheese, I mean, I LOVE cheese add wine and I’m in 7th heaven!
There were several different types of cheeses that we got to taste made in different styles, from a triple cream to a bandage wrapped, extra sharp, cheddar. Each wine was paired with 2 cheese and were tasted separately, then together. The pairings were spot on and even though individually each part was good when put together they enhanced each other in very different ways. Some times the cheese changed the wines, sometimes the wine changed the cheese but almost always for the better. During this tasting, I learned 2 things; because white wines lack tannins they are very compatible with cheese, and triple cream style cheeses are best with bubbles.
The grand tasting was held at the Cliffs Resort and was open to the public. This is where I first met Fred Dame (this is important for later) the number 40 Master Sommelier in the world. The tasting was held out on the terrace lawn of the resort and included an array of Chardonnays from the US and around the world allowing tasters to experience many of the diverse flavor profiles Chardonnay has to offer. This included old world, new world, oaked and unoaked with each wine showing something different from each region and wine maker. There was also a silent auction that benefitted Cal Poly’s Wine & Viticulture and Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration departments. The last day and a little something extra will be discussed in segment 2 to follow almost immediately.
She gets to keep the chalet and the Rolls, I want the Montrachet.”― Forbes Magazine, May 6, 1996
Great upcoming events: 8/29/15 Eberle Wine and BBq Fundraiser; 9/12-13/15 Avocado and Margarita Fest; 9/12 Wine Women and Shoes; 9/19-20/15 Beaverstock; 9/19/15 CASA Rendezvous 9/24-27/15 Savor the Central Coast; 10/2-4/15 BubblyFest; 10/3/15 Morro Bay Harbor Festival; 10/16-18/15 Harvest Wine Weekend; 10/17-19/15 Pismo Clam Fest; 11/6-8/15 SLOwine Harvest on the Coast; 11/21/15 Baconfest