Thursday, May 6, 2010

Edna Valley Vineyards San Luis Obispo County Paragon Chardonnay, 2007

Do you pay attention to appellation when you buy wine? You should if you're interested in getting value for your money. The appellation does not give you a guarantee that you'll like the wine, but it tells you where the grapes were grown. And prices for wine grapes are based in large part on where they were grown.

Edna Valley Chardonnay has had a good reputation for nearly four decades in large part because the appellation is considered good for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It's an east/west-oriented valley bordered by hills and mountains that capture the cool breezes blowing in from the ocean.

Edna Valley Vineyards owns more than half the land in the Edna Valley appellation, and the estate's Paragon Vineyards, planted in 1973, is a major source of the estate's Chardonnay. Select portions of the vineyard are currently being replanted with new clones and new drainage and trellising systems, however. That may be one reason this Edna Valley Chardonnay has come down in price--from about $15 to less than $10 a bottle. It's an excellent buy at that level but probably in line with the appellation listed on the bottle: San Luis Obispo County (a broader area) rather than Edna Valley as listed on vintages of this wine from 2006 and earlier. Most of the grapes undoubtedly come from the Paragon Vineyard, but Paragon Vineyards Company is also co-owner of the estate. As the winery claims, "2007 was a fantastic vintage in the Edna Valley," and, regardless of price or appellation, this wine pleases me at least much as the 2006.

What you should expect to find from Edna Valley fruit is a complex mix of white peaches, green pears and minerals; rich flavors countered by brisk acidity from the long growing season and cool sea breezes. I do find many of those qualities, and that's why I continue to buy Edna Valley Chardonnay. But what the winery describes as "subtle oak influences" I find not so subtle. The white peaches and green pears seem to be overwhelmed by grapefruit, lime, pineapple, vanilla and caramel--all very pleasant but probably derived mostly from aging in new French oak. The creamy, full bodied mouth feel can probably be attributed to partial barrel fermentation and aging sur lie (on spent yeast cells) in small oak barrels. If there are subtle qualities to the fruit that have been lost because of the change of appellation, they are not noticeable, in large part because of these oak influences.

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