2009 Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay

This chardonnay is the product of grapes from an exceptional vineyard, yes, but also of a high-powered alliance between Rajat Parr (wine director for the Mina Group of restaurants, including RN74, in San Francisco), Charles Banks (former owner of Screaming Eagle, no less), and Sashi Moorman (a winemaker who worked at estates like Ojai and Evening Land, notably). With grapes from carefully chosen vineyards, Sandhi Wines is, according to the web site, “dedicated to making wines of finesse, minerality, acidity, structure and balance”. Then the question becomes: do they walk the walk, beyond talking the talk?

The basics are certainly there, from a wine-geeky perspective: the wine is drawn from own-rooted vines on a North-facing slope, in the Sanford & Benedict vineyard, originally planted in 1971. The northward incline and the abundance of fog allow for slow ripening – something often worth seeking out in California. It is fermented and aged for one year in François Frères barrels (an excellent cooperage for pinot and chardonnay), and six extra months in concrete tanks.

The result is pretty much in line with the program. This is, in many ways, a very classic, barrel-fermented chardonnay, in terms of texture and aromatic profile (lovely citrus, lightly floral notes, and a roundness and light spiciness from the barrel aging), but with some additional aspects that make it original and complex, like the way the wonderful, palate-lifting acidity gives it vibrancy, along with an almost salty, mineral character evocative of the wine’s seaside origins. Beautiful, mouth-watering, with great length and the possibility of aging gracefully for several years.

A hint at its aging potential? Two days after opening the bottle, a glass left for several hours on the kitchen counter still tasted focused and fresh, even at room temperature. Well more than a passing grade on that particular litmus test.  Highly recommended. RC

WHO : Sandhi Wines
WHAT : Chardonnay
WHERE : California, Santa Rita Hills
WHEN : 2009
HOW MUCH : $45 (at the winery)

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