The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

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Page 107 of 128

THE CHARDONNAY SYMPOSIUM ENCOURAGES US TO REFLECT ON THE FUTURE OF THIS GRAPE A Modern Edge: T his is a critical time for Chardonnay, at least for wine buyers. Yes, your customers are still asking for Chardonnay, and although it's doubtful they know where this grape is headed stylistically, oaked is fine for them, for the most part. But for most of today's sommeliers, retailers and restaurateurs, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier are running an exciting race with Albariño and Verdejo; Arneis and Grillo are lunching with Grüner. Riesling and Torrontès are relaxing on many wine lists and Assyrtiko and Moscofilero are on the tip of the iceberg. And so to compete in a world of edgy whites, can Chardonnay preserve its sense of place (read: its sense of terroir and its position on wine lists) by means of minimal manipulation, including a more subtle─if any─oak program? So went the discussion at this year's Chardonnay Symposium: open forum, seminar and grand tasting, held at Byron Winery in Santa Maria, California this summer. The main focus was on how Chardonnay lends itself to manipu- lation . . . and as you will see on on pages 110–116, we staged our own blind tasting to showcase the many possible ways to "bend" this varietal. While the belief that less oak is better tends to be the trend, some voices dissent. One winemaker, for example, pointed out that less flavor and heavier texture could result from dialing back the wood (a position sometimes found in France). Others, however, insisted that this is the age of fruit, minerality and floral nature—and that a "less is more" approach is the gilding on this grape. MINERALITY REIGNS Here are a few of our editorial team's top picks for Chardonnays that reflect a modern edge: Costa de Oro Aged for 17 months, Costa de Oro Reserva Dorada claims an Old-World winemaking style and New- World grape growing practices. The Gold Coast Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley is the home for its Estate Chardonnays (and Pinot Noirs). Still, with the oak program, minerality ekes out amidst a lovely, harmonious lemon-to- tropical palate, front, middle and back. "I make wines for texture and aromatics," says winemaker and proprietor Gary Burk. "I look for that pretty sweet spot." Gary Burk of Costa de Oro. Preserving Terroir with Minimal Intervention by Meridith May / photos by Dianne Porchia

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