In a review of current vintages of Napa Valley Chardonnay, a local panel of winemakers preferred the 2012 vintage over 2011, and sought greater acidity and less oak- influenced flavors in the wines they tasted, writes By Catherine Seda Bugue and Tiffany van Gorder.
The St. Helena Star and Napa Valley Vintners Tasting Panel met this past month to review current vintages of Napa Valley Chardonnays priced over $30. With almost two dozen wines to review, the room was divided into two and panelists in each section tasted three flights of five to six wines.
The Chardonnay wines ranged in price from $30 to $70 and came from a variety of appellations throughout Napa Valley, including Carneros, Oak Knoll, Oakville and Rutherford.
Panelist’s preference for the 2012 vintage stemmed from more noticeable fruit, acidity and balance. A majority also found the wines, overall, to be sweeter than they expected–especially for Napa Valley Chardonnays.
“I was quite surprised in the amount of sugar I found in these wines, especially in the 2012 vintage,” said Stacey Vogel, winemaker at Miner Family. Todd Graff, with Frank Family Vineyards, agreed and commented that he found the wines to have an “element of Moscato in them.”
In addition, panelists mentioned their disappointment in the absence of minerality and acidity. “Many of these wines were lower in acid than I prefer, and I found them to be a bit flabby,” said John Skupny of Lang & Reed.
Some of the panelists were surprised with the prevalent oak flavours in the wines. “I generally found both vintages to be fat, oily wines and I really couldn’t distinguish between those that were 2011 and 2012,” said Kristin Belair, winemaker at Honig.
At the conclusion of the tasting, Josh Luhn of Conn Valley Vineyards made a good observation. “I find it interesting that the majority of the wines that scored better among the group underwent little to no malolactic fermentation.”
Big, lush wines with dollops of oak flavours have been the preferred style of Napa Valley chardonnay for some time now. It appears as if the tide is finally turning and there is a desire for leaner, more refreshing Chardonnays with restrained oak flavours.
Scroll through to see which wines were the favourites of the panel…