2016 Black Kite Chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
In 2016, the longer growing season and extra time on the vine amplified the signature richness and intensity of the Soberanes Vineyard. Our 2016 Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay is a sumptuous melange of baked apple, white peach, fig, and pear, made more complex by notes of sweet oak and almond paste. Mid-palate, the wine expands, offering extraordinary richness and texture lifted by a wonderful acid tension. An interesting hint of pine nuts lingers on the very long finish. Enjoy upon release or cellar for up to 3-5 years
The 2016 growing season in Santa Lucia Highlands was defined by the return of winter rains, an exceptionally early bud break, and a long, cooler-than-average growing season. The extended time on the vine allowed our Chardonnay to ripen slowly and evenly, developing intense fruit concentration balanced by bright acids. While slightly higher than in 2015, crop yields were still lower than “normal,” leaving us wanting much more from this exceptional vintage.
Winemaking & Cooperage
The grapes were harvested in the early morning hours and transported immediately to the winery, where they were cold pressed and cold settled overnight before being inoculated at a low rate with CY3079 Burgundian yeast. The wine was sur lie aged, underwent malolactic fermentation in the barrel, and was aged for a total of 10 months in a mix of new (50%) and one-year-old French oak barrels from the Allier, Vosges, Troncais, and Bertranges forests.
Black Kite Cellars is a small, family-owned, and operated winery. Since our founding in 2003, we have committed ourselves to making the finest site-specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from great vineyards along the California coast. With the third generation now becoming involved, we intend to continue this journey for many years to come. Gruet Winery has achieved unprecedented acclaim and remains a favorite of the nation’s top sommeliers.
What a wine. Think this is the first higher-end wine Casemates has ever trusted me to review, so I’m gonna try not to mess this one up as badly as I normally do.
First thing, scent. I got apple, vanilla, maybe a bit of oak, maybe I imagined it, either way it was faint. Wife got pear. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Taste. Definitely crisp fruit. Pear or apple, take your pick, apparently both are present. Little dry, slightly more acidic than the average chardonnay I’ve experienced.
Texture. First thing the wife said was wow this is so silky smooth and we were finally in agreement. Like drinking liquid velvet. Worth trying for the smoothness alone.
Pairing. We took this to an Italian restaurant (and even paid the corking fee instead of just pouring it into a plastic flask and taking turns running to the bathroom for a few gulps) and it paired deliciously with the creamy penne alla vodka. Would absolutely recommend something creamy to go with this, as the flavor isn’t particularly oaky to offset the acidity of a tomato based pasta. Or just pair it with something besides pasta. Idc I’m not your boss.
So… yeah. That was my experience. Would recommend. Everything I’ve read says ~$50/bottle so I’m sure this’ll be a steal on something to impress your friends who google the price of every bottle of wine you serve them.
I received a pleasant surprise over the weekend – that special email from Alice, declaring that I had received the honor of reviewing an upcoming release of a wine for our beloved Casemates community. I love being able to provide this preview, and hopefully provide an objective and accurate review for you.
As is the norm, the selection was an unknown to me. A Chardonnay from California…… hmmmm…… visions of that infamous winery offering from the 80’s crept into mind – where the whole country couldn’t get enough Chardonnay (and then promptly turned to other trendy options – like anything-other-than-Merlot!).
Fortunately, Casemates was instrumental in providing me with a renewed perspective into this varietal, with their spectacular Louis Latour Burgundy offerings over the past couple of years. So, with those thoughts in mind, I can hopefully guide you into making an informed decision on this new offer.
Upon opening the box,
I was immediately struck by the vintage – a 7-year-old Chardonnay? A liquidation sale? Overstock? A newly-found, hidden cache? I resolved to put any prejudices aside – again, for objectivity – and popped it into the fridge for cooling. My plan was to taste (1) refrigerator cold, (2) 30 minutes later, and (3) 1 hour later. This offering comes from the Soberanes Vinyard, in the Santa Lucia Highlands, east of Monterrey and Big Sur; a promising, not-so-typical California heritage and locale.
Pop and Pour:
In the glass: No wimpy Chard here! A rich, deep golden color. Clear, transparent, pleasant appearance. Somewhat darker than a typical Chardonnay, but no direct evidence of aging.
On the nose: (chilled) Pleasant aromas, some fruit – tropical, slight citrus, the ubiquitous apple/pear combo, and “wet stone” minerality undertones. I am led down the Burgundy path….
Initial taste (chilled) – as expected with the 14.1% ACV, it was quite prominent. Fruit that was on the nose presented as well, with perhaps some almond notes, a little sweet, some suggestion of butter, and a nice balance that offered promise of an even better experience after temperature elevation (we Americans drink white wine waaaay too cold!)
While the wine warmed up a bit, I turned to their website for some insights, as the label (and my experience with this area) left me short of facts. I was right about the Burgundy influence – that was indeed the winemaker’s intent. Also, the notations of malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging is validated in the hint of butter (thankfully, not overly done!) and complexity. Though it mentioned aging in new and 1-year-old French barrels, oak was (again, thankfully!!) not prominent – no picking out splinters from the tongue!
About 45 minutes to an hour after refrigeration is, IMHO, the sweet spot in temperature for this wine. More fruit and mineral tastes balanced the alcohol, and allowed for that complex, full-bodied structure, creamy mouthfeel experience to shine through.
Pairing – Due to some hectic, late-breaking circumstances, I was unable to pair this with a dinner entrée. But some fresh fruit and soft cheese paired well; everyone played well together. But this would hold up nicely to a chicken tetrazzini, Florentine, or any Alfredo dish, or some of the heavier seafood entrees of salmon or swordfish.
For those Chardonnay-haters out there (you know who you are – I was once one of them!) give this a try. It’s time to welcome this varietal back into the repertoire!!
Additional notes after posting: The bottle I received does not match the specs above. See picture for AbV; no blend is mentioned.) Wrong cut-and-paste? IDK. Perhaps the Vitner can chime in here?
Got my case a few days ago, chilled a bottle and just had the first sip. HEAVEN! As described, very slight butter, very slight oak, and so much flavor and personality. I wish I’d gotten two cases, now!