During the (incredibly beautiful) post-Wine Bloggers Conference excursion to Bridlewood Winery, we had the opportunity to experience a Chardonnay that completely rocked my world. Nearly two weeks later, it still does.
The 2012 Brldlewood Winery Chardonnay Santa Barbara is lush and gorgeous. I fell in love with it when those of us from the Wine Bloggers Conference attended a panel discussion on the wines and sustainable foods of the Santa Barbara wine country. I will tell you about the panel discussion soon, but now I want to focus on the wine.
I’m enjoying it as I write this, and I’m not disappointed at all. After the panel discussion was done, I went immediately to the Bridlewood tasting room with the plans to buy a bottle. Eight bottles of differing varieties later, I walked out, box firmly in hand. I still can’t figure out how that happened.
But I digress.
I learned during the panel discussion that this particular Chardonnay was fermented in a concrete “egg.” Really. Bridlewood, along with other wineries such as Harlan and Screaming Eagle, decided that using concrete eggs was a good bet. According to manufacturers of concrete wine vessels, the lack of 90º angles means that wine “moves” and is more uniform. Early adopters claim metaphysical powers of the egg, while others say that their customers like looking at them because they’re cool.
The concrete egg adds to wine that delicate balance between stainless steel austerity and oak “over doneness.” This is a consistent statement by both manufacturers and wineries. No one will argue that New World wines can be overripe and somewhat over the top. They often lack many of the nuances which have ensured the superiority of Old World wines, Judgment in Paris notwithstanding. So what can be done? Many wineries are using French oak in order to ensure that their wines have a lush mouthfeel, while others are using stainless steel in order to ensure that their wines are crisp and bright. Apparently, for a lot of scientific reasons that I won’t go into here, the concrete vessel – be it round, square, or egg – straddles that line by keeping flavors and aromas in check. Its natural porosity is a benefit, and its insulating qualities are valued.
This Chardonnay does not disappoint. It is clear, bright, and a beautiful gold color with a touch of green in daylight lighting. The 14.5% ABV leaves 17% legs on the glass, giving it a rich and luscious appearance. On the nose, there’s green apple, pear, cream, and spice (allspice maybe?), with bracing acidity, especially for a California Chardonnay. The mouthfeel is as rich as the legs, It has surprising acidity, and apple, pear, citrus, tropical fruit, and spice on the palate, with a long, pear-inspired finish. Delicious.
Pan-seared Swai and green salad tossed with an olive oil and lemon dressing. Nice.
According to the manufacturers of the concrete eggs, they made the decision to create them because that’s how wines were fermented and aged eons ago. The Greeks used vessels called Amphorae, which were made of clay, to store their wines. And, yes, there are wineries today that are using clay in the form of terracotta to craft their wines.
In my opinion, the concrete adds a level of minerality that’s often missing in New World wines. (Yeah, I know what the Geologists say. Whatever.) These wines have the great balance that add the minerality that’s often missing, and it combines it with the fruitiness that makes the New World wines so delicious. In other words, concrete adds the food-friendliness that you want, but also lets you just drink the wines without worrying about characteristics that will keep you from enjoying it just as a drink.
This wine is only available online or through the wine club. It is one of their white label offerings, which is higher end.
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