Summer is here and with that I can start enjoying the great white wines that have been storing nicely in the wine cellar. I don’t recall when I began the ritual of not drinking white after Labor Day, but I’ve stuck to it for many years now. Each new summer I look forward to the enjoyment and stirrings of some beautiful White Ports, Sauvignon Blancs, Rieslings and of course Chardonnays. Throughout the year, and from time to time, I do make expectations when it’s for paired meals and of course for Champagnes that are made from chardonnay grapes. But 90% if not 95% of my wine consumption consists of reds nine months out of the year.
This should be a very good summer as I procured, from various auctions that I buy my wines, many fine whites during the winter. If there is a particular year or a specific label I want, wine auctions are great for locating what can often be difficult to find at your local wine retailer. I would tell you which auction houses I buy from, but I never reveal my sources. I did tell a friend where I get many of my great wines and now he outbids me on certain varietals. I’m a quick learner, so you’re just going to have to do some research on wine auctions on your own... because I’m not telling!
However, what I will gladly tell you is that a finely made chardonnay is like no other. Their notes of peach, apricot, floral, the buttery finishes with just a hint of clove and cinnamon, oak and vanilla really bring out the characteristics of summertime. The response I often get when I tell someone that I’m going to enjoy an amazing white wine over the weekend is, “I don’t like white wine.” I can tell you, if I were wearing a glove I would have taken it off and swatted them across the face, but as it’s rare that anyone finds me wearing white gloves. In those instances I simply say, “That’s only because you’ve never had a really good one.” There are many legendary white wines from across the world. They span from Bordeaux’s white blends to Rhone Valley’s viogniers, from Cote d'Or and Cotes de Beaun white Burgundy to Germany and Austria’s Rieslings. And of course, we have California’s chardonnays. With a properly paired cheese or seafood dinner, a white wine will quite simply amaze the palette.
For this month’s review, I turn my focus to my very own California and one of her most extraordinary chardonnays. California is home to some incredible producers of the varietal and if you’re ready to enjoy some of them, then plan on opening up your wallet, because the great ones are going to be expensive and may I say, damn well worth it. If you’re wondering why, it’s in part because these wineries, over and over again, have been proven to produce exceptional wines, by both blind tastings and by consistently receiving top reviews by critics alike. Personally, I like my chards with power and fruit and I particularly like the ones that could be cellared for up to 5 to 10 years and ‘still’ perform and show with amazing depth.
A few top rated California chardonnays that I guarantee will make you fall in love with white wine are, Marcassin, Kongsgaard (The Judge), Aubert (Eastside), Peter Michael, Kistler, Kosta Browne, Pahlmeyer, just to name a few. These wines range from $65 - $250 and each one is unique and balanced and beautiful. It’s from this list that I’ve chosen this month’s wine for my review and the one that stands out by far and is one of my absolute favorites is the Kosta Browne. In previous reviews, I’ve reviewed Kosta Browne’s Pinot Noir and I’m not shy about saying that they’ve become my favorite winery and I was thrilled when I learned a few months ago that we made their exclusive wine allocation list. That was certainly a highpoint of my year.
For those of you who’d like to know more about them, I thought who better to tell you than Kosta Brown themselves. So here’s a little splash on their history, right from their website: Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to venture into winemaking. They saved tip money for about eight months and eventually had enough to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir, a used barrel and an old hand-crank stemmer-crusher, a purchase that marks the beginning of Kosta Browne. Since that vintage, they have nurtured relationships with the best growers and honed their winemaking skills, making sure to focus on the vision and values with which they began.
In 2001, Dan and Michael partnered with Chris Costello and his family, who collectively provided the business experience and relationships that gave Kosta Browne the necessary resources to grow. Chris was able to craft a business plan that conveyed the appeal of the Kosta Browne story and sensibly described its future, helping to convince many wary family members and friends that investing in the vision would be worth it.
Today, Dan, Michael and Chris work very closely to maintain the quality and consistency of the entire Kosta Browne experience.
The particular Kosta Brown chardonnay has its own rich history as this was first year that the winery produced a white. Here is a bit more of their story, again directly from the Kosta Brown website: Kosta Browne’s first Chardonnay, ‘One Sixteen’ is named after the Gravenstein Highway 116 which cuts through the town of Sebastopol and defines the border of Green Valley, a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Mecca in the Russian River Valley. The 2009 vintage is sourced from Martinelli’s Zio Tony Vineyard, which is located along this highway and in the heart of the Russian River Valley appellation. The site has a superb micro-climate, offering just the right amount of warmth during the day and very cool nights, which leads to intensely focused wine with strong natural acidity.
As a closing note, only 290 cases were made. I hope you are fortunate enough to try this outstanding chardonnay. I also compared this vintage side by side with Martinelli’s 2009, Zio Tony Vineyard and there were no resemblances. The Martinelli was respectable, but did not even come close to the Kosta Browne. It really goes to show you what a winemaker can do with blending and barreling of grapes from the same harvest.
This was probably one of the best chardonnays I have ever tasted. The 5 years in the cellar did it well and it could probably go a few more years in the darkness.
Kosta Browne, One Sixteen, Chardonnay, 2009
Produced by: Kosta Browne
Winery: Kosta Browne
Label: One Sixteen
Region: Russian River Valley
Location: Northern California
Appearance (Color): Golden like melted Ghee
Aroma (Complexity): Vanilla and Lychee fruit
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium with heavy heat
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Vanilla, Bubble Gum, Apple
Finish (What lingers): Asian Pear and Green Apple
Food Paring: Brie, Goudha, Truffles, Chocolate, Sushi, Summer Salads
Serving Temperature: 55°
Drink: Now thru 2016
Final Rating: 95
My rating system is based on Robert Parker and Wine Spectator's 50-point scale.
Wine Points How Good the Wine Is
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89 Very Good: wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79 Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 Below Average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59 Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science and then switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California with a degree in graphic designer and sculpting. For over eight years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, and his true love is Kosta Browne. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as a senior marketing manager / business development for an adult sex toy company. On his downtime he is busy writing a business plan for a unique wine bar concept somewhere in Southern California, preferably Long Beach (Naples area). Currently he resides in Southern California with his lovely wife and motivational speaker Shawn-Marie.