Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I just have to tell you about this wine! I generally only drink the same bottle once a year - sometimes twice. I've drunk this three times already this month! Although, I hazard to put the word out because they only made two barrels of it (about fifty cases...). I think it bears some talking about, though.
Liquid Farm is a brand new project in the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County. Known for its particularly cool climate, Pinot Noirs from this AVA have been flying off the shelves for a number of years now due to a little film called "Sideways". While a winemaker's style can sometimes get in the way of expressing what this climate has to offer (in cases such as Sea Smoke), there are a few producers who are working to showcase what can be accomplished in this area from the Old World perspective. Some of those producers are dabbling in Chardonnay, due to its classic roots in Burgundy and notoriety for expressing terroir and minerality.
With the winemaking team from Dragonette Cellars to assist, Liquid Farm has set forth their goal of showcasing California Chardonnay in its best light. Their focus is on typicity of the grape, minerality, food-friendly acidity, balance, and overall drinkability. Their efforts to avoid manipulating the wine really shine through: no acidification, new oak or heavy alcohols. This is Chardonnay in its most natural light.
The Liquid Farm 'White Hill' Chardonnay 2009 succeeds at every level of what they set forth to accomplish. Beautiful flavors of Golden Delicious apple and Anjou pear, a soft cinnamon note, quince, a touch of lemon sorbet - and stoney minerality like water rushing over rocks. The acidity makes this wine completely refreshing and, in my experience so far, completely food-friendly. I've enjoyed it with Dim Sum, where it was truly amazing (especially with curried noodles), and also Truffled Chicken Cordon Bleu. Both occasions were a real treat.
In addition to the two barrels of 'White Hill', they have also produced two barrels of another Chardonnay called 'Golden Slope', which I have not yet had the opportunity to taste, but will definitely seek out. One wonders how such a large effort that yields such a small, albeit amazing, result is worth the time and energy involved. All I can do is applaud their passion and dedication. And, of course, drink their wine.
It's a real treat, as a sommelier, to find producers who are undertaking the challenge of introducing the world market to a new style. I'm pleased to say we have been pouring The Paring Chardonnay 2009 by the glass at Jar for some time now, another crisp Chardonnay without oak influence from Santa Rita Hills. I hope that this is a trend that will continue in the years to come. From what I've seen, people are responding in a positive way to these changes, although they may not be able to put their finger on how these Chardonnays are different from the ones they normally drink. But when they order a second glass, it tells me that Chardonnay drinkers are open to the change.