Chardonnay Tasting 01

One of the most fascinating benefits to working with some of the best vineyards in Sonoma and Carneros is having the opportunity to taste a number of wines from the same vineyard and same vintage, but made by a different winemaking team. Even with similar winemaking styles, uniqueness abounds – whether due to slight differences in barrel aging, clone selections, or even differing micro-terroirs within one vineyard.

On Wednesday, January 13th, we had the privilege of hosting a Chardonnay Tasting for members of the Guild of Sommeliers, featuring wines from two of the finest vineyards in California: Hyde Vineyards and Hudson Vineyards. All wines were from 2013; all from either Hyde or Hudson vineyards, yet we experienced seven entirely different interpretations of Hyde Vineyard and five entirely different interpretations of Hudson Vineyard. As Stephen Eliot of Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine summarized in a recapping blog post, “Suffice it to say that the wines were remarkable, but they were decidedly different despite being from the same vintage and site.”

Chardonnay Tasting 02

Moderated by Master Sommelier Matt Stamp, the tasting was led by a dynamic team of winemaker and grower panelists, including Larry Hyde and Lee Hudson:

Larry Hyde, Hyde Vineyards
Lee Hudson, Hudson Ranch & Vineyards
Jason Kesner, Kistler Vineyards
Andy Smith, DuMOL Wines
David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars
Stéphane Vivier, Hyde de Villaine
Christopher Vandendriessche, Hudson Vineyards
Jeff Gaffner, Ram’s Gate Winery
James Hall, Patz & Hall
Tor Kenward, Tor Kenward Family Wines

“These are two of the best in the business sitting in the middle of the table today,” said Jason Kesner of Kistler Vineyards, “and none of us would have been there if not for growers like Larry and Lee.”

Chardonnay Tasting 03Chardonnay Tasting 04

Flight #1 featured seven wines from Hyde Vineyard:

DuMOL Hyde Vineyard, “Clare” 2013
Hyde de Villaine, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Kistler, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Patz & Hall, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Ramey, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Ram’s Gate, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Tor Kenward, Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

Chardonnay Tasting 05Hyde Flight

Throughout the first flight, talk of budwood and clone selection were key themes, along with how each winemaker utilizes different techniques, from types of yeast to malolactic fermentation timing and cooperage.

Across the board, one concept was clear: every winemaker’s vision is to best express the site. “When you have grapes that have such a powerful natural personality, in the winery we can have a fairly gentle hand,” said Andy Smith of DuMOL Wines, “and it’s a case of nudging in the right direction.” Stéphane Vivier of Hyde de Villaine added, “Our idea for the wine is to put in your glass a picture of the vineyards, to show the best of what Hyde Vineyards can represent… We try to be as ghostly as possible at the winery.”

“Not only is Hyde Vineyard famous, but this vineyard has been instrumental in developing so many of our techniques as winemakers. It’s really fun to come here and acknowledge one of my heroes in the business, Larry Hyde, so thank you.”

– James Hall, Patz & Hall


Flight #2 featured five wines from Hudson Vineyard:

Hudson, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay, 2013
Kistler, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Patz & Hall, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Ram’s Gate, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Tor Kenward, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

Lee Hudson

“It’s remarkable, the level of viticulture [at Hudson Vineyards]. It’s about as high as you’re going to get in California. The attention to detail is remarkable, and the time and thought that Lee puts into it is unparalleled except for his neighbor, Larry, so this is a great opportunity for you guys to listen to more what they have to say than what we have to say for sure.”

– Jason Kesner, Kistler Vineyards

PouringHudson Flight.2

“This question of terroir…  every winemaker in California knows that they’re supposed to say, ‘The wines are all made in the vineyard. I just try not to screw it up.’ No, I disagree: it’s half the grapes and half what you do with them.”

– David Ramey, Ramey Wines

Hudson Flight

“We both really care about wine. We’re both wine-growers, not grape-growers, and we manage our vineyards in our own style, but the style is all driven by our love, our interest, our fascination with wine.”

– Lee Hudson

Reception

It was a memorable day filled with great wines and a panel of some of the best in the business, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to host. Tim Fish of Wine Spectator summarized in his recent blog post, “Indeed, many of the Chardonnays tasted that day captured the best of what California is doing now. These were talented, experienced winemakers working with impeccably farmed vines.”

Cheers to Lee, Larry and the talented winemakers who, like our team at Ram’s Gate Winery, have the honor of crafting wine from this beautiful fruit.

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