What was far beyond our control was whether or not even perfect storage would be enough to make these West Coast chardonnays age well.
Flowers Andreen-Gale, Sonoma Coast 2006: A blend based on their estate Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard, located above 1,000 feet, and some Durrell and Dutton fruit as well (at least based on the 2004 vintage - information was spotty). The 2004 was one of nine "Year's Best" chardonnays from Wine & Spirits.
The 2006 was subtle and creamy with a backbone of acidity. A nutty quality persisted throughout. I wanted to say butterscotch as well but that descriptor brings to mind a thickness/sweetness that was not present in this wine. Minerality, reminiscent of a 4 or 5 year-old Chablis, appeared on the palate but this wine was riper and fuller. I found the wine tart, beguiling and tasty but ultimately it seemed a bit short, even hollow on the finish. The buildup was good, expanding in the mouth, and the final impression of the finish was enjoyable but in between the wine disappeared for a moment.
The next two, both older, showed much better, exceeding my expectations!
Kistler Les Noisetiers, Sonoma Coast 2004: The wine is a blend of Sonoma Coast sites and they make a fair amount of it. That does not mean you can find it easily since the wines are much sought after by collectors. I have tasted a number of Kistler's chardonnays in their youth but they always seemed so tightly wound and ungiving that I mostly shrugged about all the hype. My palate salivated at the prospect but was also prepared for disappointment.
It was golden in the glass..I mean golden, almost like apple juice (in color only). Buttered almonds dominated the nose and it was glorious because the wine remained vibrant and intense with some lemon curd aromas sneaking in there as well. The palate was thick and rich but balanced and I realized why people get excited about these wines. A slight smokiness appeared but not in the highly-toasted, over-oaked, all too predictable, California way.
The finish was long, tingly and delicious and the texture was very French while the fruit's ripeness and fullness clearly reminded us of its California roots. Amazing!
Domaine Serene Cote Sud, Dijon Clones, Willamette Valley 2004: This was my wild card. I have always loved this wine for its brightness and its opulence. It always seemed capable of aging but I have only tasted current releases. Domaine Serene has never been shy about pricing and the 2010 (sold out) was selling for more than twice the release price of this 2004 (and $20 MORE than the 2004 we bought two weeks ago).
But let's get to the wine. It smelled a little like SweetTarts on the nose but that needs some explanation. I sometimes find this character in wines that have citrus fruit and minerality that combine to make my mouth water. The finish was long, long, long and amazing with lemon butter and some soft, delicate talcy thing. Again, some explanation: talc, to me, means limestone and the accompanying slightly salty minerality, it is tactile and a good thing, at least to me. Kistler was right in your face but this wine was much more subtle and quietly alluring. The wine expands on the finish in a completely satisfying and mesmerizing way. Impressive!
I fully believe this should be the flagship wine for Oregon chardonnay. However, a disclaimer must be issued. The price of current releases has escalated enough for Domaine Serene wines that I no longer purchase them and they have had some trouble holding onto winemakers since Tony Rynders left (he made wine for them from 1998-2008). I have no idea what is happening currently but this 2004 chardonnay was nothing short of incredible.
Next: some reds from the same celebration...