The Very Rare 2019 Chardonnay Black Label and the 2019 Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills
We are happy to announce the release of two new Chardonnays from the terrific 2019 vintage, both of which are made in miniscule quantities, and which challenge the notion that California Chardonnay must be big, thick and blowsy. First, the flagship chardonnay, the ultra-limited, reserve-level “Black Label” Chardonnay, which displays laser like acidity and structure, holding up dramatic tropical fruits and rocky minerals. Second, the white label 2019 Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills which is a worthy successor to the 2018 version, which was dubbed “a textbook Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay” (and given 93 points) by Jeb Dunnuck. Both Chardonnays show the cool climate of Sta. Rita Hills, which allows for solid ripeness over a long slow growing season, while preserving critical acidity, and both are made is such small quantities that you will want to get some before they are gone.
Some Notes on the 2019 Vintage
2019 was a classic cool-climate year in the Sta. Rita Hills. A wet and cold winter cleansed vineyard soils and provided a good profile of soil moisture. A cool Spring helped delay budbreak until late March and to control vigor. Cool and windy conditions around bloom resulted in an extended flowering, but we saw decent set in Chardonnay. June was warm, but July and early August were generally cooler, which moderated ripening. Some late August heat boosted ripeness, but there were no dangerous heat spikes. September was generally cool and sunny, allowing for us to harvest at precise times, under ideal conditions (long, cool mornings).
2019 Chardonnay, Black Label (Sta. Rita Hills)
Much like our Black Label Pinot Noir, this wine is a reserve-level blend of our favorite barrels from the vintage. The 2019 is crafted from three of the most extreme, cold, wind-battered, low yielding sites in Sta Rita Hills (if not anywhere). Thus, we combined wines from rocky, windswept Bentrock (50%), steep, diatomaceous Rita’s Crown (25%) and the salty, marine and gale force wind influenced Radian (25%). These difficult sites, produce small clusters of thick skinned, tiny berry Chardonnay that has massive punch, but also strong acidity and minerality. The wine was fermented and aged on its lees in French oak barriques (75% new) with partial malolactic fermentation occurring spontaneously in barrel. The resulting wine is aged for 18 months on its lees without stirring, before selection, blending and bottling.
This dramatic wine displays incredibly concentrated flavors of fruit, minerals, spices and flowers, which are held aloft by tremendous acidity and structure from the skins and from lightly toasted new oak barrels. The wine has a terrific, complex finish that lasts for minutes and portends a good future over the medium term. The wine is on par qualitatively with the 96-point 2018 version. We suspect similar numbers, but given how fast the 2108 disappeared, we doubt there will be any left by the time it is reviewed. Act fast.
Tiny production. Only 90 cases produced.
2019 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills
In 2019, we crafted the appellation blend, Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay from wines of three terrific vineyards, all of which are farmed organically. Thus, this wine is a blend of 33.3% each from Rita’s Crown (Clone 76), Donnachadh (Clone 4), and Spear (Wente). The cool 2019 vintage saw extended hang time for Chardonnay as well as the other grapes, with pick dates in mid to late September. The wine was fermented and aged on its lees in French oak barriques (20% new), with partial malolactic fermentation occurring spontaneously in barrel. The resulting wine is aged for 16 months on its lees without stirring, before selection, blending and bottling. This is a decidedly cooler climate Chardonnay, with terrific acids and minerality which lifts the ripe tropical fruit flavors, giving a very long finish.
We love the complexity and energy of this wine, which represents a fascinating cross section of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Extremely limited. Only 225 cases produced.
This wine is not yet rated, but the prior vintage was rated 93 points by Jeb Dunnuck who stated, “Readers looking to learn what topflight Chardonnay from this region tastes like should latch onto bottles.”
Over the last several months we have seen a noticeable number of visitors from around the country, and of course, from our California back yard. It has been lovely seeing so many happy, eager travelers, both in the Tasting Room and at the Winery. We have enjoyed meeting so many new faces as well as longtime customers, with whom we share our stories while pouring them some of Santa Barbara’s finest. We really do believe that the craziness of the last year and a half has caused us to realize how much we truly missed the enjoyment of great food and wine, shared with others, as well as travel to beautiful places and just pure joy. We are hopeful that these themes will continue into the future.
We look forward to seeing you soon at either the Tasting Room or the Study in Los Olivos, or at the Winery in Buellton. The summer season is well under way, with sunshine and lots and lots of smiles. Tables are filling up, so book your tasting ahead of time!
John, Steve, Brandon and the entire Dragonette Cellars team