2008 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay
California: Napa Valley
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Mission Codename: The Reservist
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Revisit our friends at Spelletich and, this time, abscond with their delicious Reserve Chardonnay, in time for our Operatives’ summertime enjoyment.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Spelletich Cellars
Wine Subject: 2008 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay
Winemaker: Barbara Spelletich
Backgrounder: Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as ‘the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. Today’s approachable selection from the Napa Valley is a delicious wine with a great mouthfeel and plenty of character.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Brilliant golden hues with lighter edges. When swirled, the wine glitters. As it settles, wide tears run slowly down the glass.
Smell – Orange blossom take the leads here. This is followed by expressive aromas of pear, apple, pineapple, kiwi, banana, toasted almond, spices and a complex minerality that all flow from the glass.
Feel – Mouth coating and soft, this wine has a rich and ripe initial feeling. This gradually becomes more clean and refreshing long into the finish.
Taste – Neatly and almost perfectly echoing the nose, this wine delivers delicious rich, lively and complex flavors of pear, apple, pineapple, kiwi, banana, subtle almond and soft spice, with a complex minerality. Added to these are hints of vanilla, toast, cinnamon, nutmeg and custard – all of which add to the mouth appeal.
Finish – Long and lingering, with flavors that seem to expand on the palate. As the flavors tail off, there is a burst of freshness, with a mouth cleansing acidity that supports a transition from fruit to minerals, spice and a hint of oak at the very end.
Conclusion – This is a complex and lively Chardonnay that is delicious, tantalizing and well worthy of your attention. We experimented with drinking the wine at varying temperatures and found that the wine really shone when give a little time to breathe and to warm slightly. In doing so, we were rewarded with a far more expressive experience, finding that everything from the richer aromatics to the fuller feel to the deeper flavors were enhanced. This is a well-constructed Chardonnay that we feel even has real aging potential – which is, we realize, an interesting notion to consider where Chardonnay is concerned. While this wine is more than ready to drink now, we are going to hang onto a few bottles for the next few years. Pair this stylish and sophisticated Chardonnay delicious wine with a fresh summer pasta, or enjoy it all on its own, during a hot summer afternoon.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Barbara Spelletich
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Cork & Bottle, Seattle Washington, Retail Store Manager. Taught Wine Classes, wine tasting and cheese; St. Michelle, Woodinville, Washington, Retail Sales Manager, Public Events, Tasting Room Zephyr Imports, Owner; Imported wines from Italy, France, Germany, Spain & Portugal; Whitwhams, Responsible for US sales. We were negociants for Cru Classe Bordeaux, Ports & Burgundies. Offices in Manchester England & Cenon, Bordeaux; St. Clement, St. Helena, CA National Sales Manager; Spelletich Cellars, Owner & Winemaker
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: As natural as possible.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ” I do want to manipulate wine. I want to harvest when ripe, ferment cool to capture the fruit essence and age until the wine is ready to be bottled. The most important feature of my wine is that it smell and taste of the grapes it was made from. Simple.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Bodog Red 1993, Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 & Chardonnay 1994. All Napa Valley.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Barbara. Welcome back! We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BARBARA SPELLETICH: We always enjoy our missions with The Wine Spies.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
BARBARA: Yes, a trip to California when I was 18 years old. I tasted Cabernet Sauvignon at a dinner and that was it!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
BARBARA: The list is long as I imported wine from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal & Spain for years. Angelo Gaja taught me to not compromise, Signore Gentini taught me to blend, Egon Mueller taught me to plant the right clone of grapes and keep the vines healthy. Each of the wines I exported to my company, Zephyr Imports, in Seattle Washington had a story, a style, a commitment to excellence & a creative curve.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
BARBARA: I make wine for customers. I make wines that are great with food. So my customers are also foodies who like wine. Same me & my family & friends.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
BARBARA: Ahh, our Spelletich Cellars 2008 Reserve Chardonnay… This is a non ML (malolactic) Chardonnay, but it is fermented in French and Hungarian Oak and kept in barrel until we bottle it. We stir the lees once a week and the result is magnificent. The wine is rich with tropical fruit flavors, but at the same time refreshing.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
BARBARA: I love barbequed dry rubbed , Indian spices, chicken and fish. This Chardonnay also pairs well with steak and pork chops because it is so rich.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
BARBARA: This wine hails from the Carneros area in Napa Valley. Carneros is the perfect place for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The unique region cools down at night and stays a more moderate temperature throughout the summer. This creates more acidity, which makes my wine more refreshing and more balanced for food.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
BARBARA: Watching the weather. It is June 27 and we are expecting rain again tomorrow. The grapes are beginning to form. Right now they look like little green peas. Bottling is a priority right now to free up barrels for harvest.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
BARBARA: Use your nose first. As a winemaker, I love the smell of wine. So the aroma is the first sense of any wine we taste. I like to swirl my wine to open it up and then take my first sip and roll this around my mouth a bit before I swallow. Sometimes we need to let a wine open up and show its personality before we really get it. Take your time with wine. The wait is worth it.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
BARBARA: Taste wines you have never tried before. You will fall in love. Again.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Spelletich Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Lovely, toasty aromas with some citrus. On the palate, it’s soft with some vanilla that morphs into crisp acidity on a long finish. It will age well for another 6-7 years.
About The Winery:
Spelletich Family Winery started with the 1994 harvest in Napa Valley. The first wines were Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Bodog Red. With minimal intervention, they rely upon their secret weapon: Barb’s palate. Focusing on three basic, yet critical principles: when to harvest, when to press and when to pull off the oak to pursue something larger and more elusive than your ordinary wines. Their approach is to produce wines of integrity; that are rich, ripe and refreshing. Barbs focus is the fruit. She wants you to be able to taste real fruit flavors and smell the incredible nose of her wines. This winery is truly only family owned and operated. Husband & wife team Timothy and Barb Spelletich and their daughter Kristen.
Barb was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She stared her career in the wine industry as the manager of The Cork & Bottle. She worked for Ste. Michelle Winery, G. Raden & Sons, and then established her own distributorship, Zephyr Imports. This began her international travels and relationships with the finest wineries in the world. She spent every spring traveling to Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The purpose was to visit each producer to choose the wines to be exported to the United States. These producers became friends and taught Barb much about wine making. Mainly the importance of ripe fruit and the gentle way to preserve that fruit flavor. Her next step was Whitwhams Fine and Rare Wines, based in Manchester, England and Bordeaux. Life as a negociant enhanced her contact with winemakers of all Cru Classe. She futher enhanced her winemaking skills with courses at UC Davis. Barb arrived in Napa Valley in 1992 and started working for St. Clement Vineyards in St. Helena.
Timothy grew up half way across the country in Davenport, Iowa. After graduating with a degree in business from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he had an opportunity to work in Italy. He worked at the Locanda Del Sant’Uffizio, a small country inn and restaurant located in a town outside of Asti. At this former monastery he experienced an old fashioned way of life. Each prix fixe meal was prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients available on the property and nearby villages. The exposure to herbs, fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak of ripeness, creating menus, plus pairing the food with wine introduced Timothy to flavors and sensory evalationsthat changed his life forever. This small exclusive inn also made their own wine from estate grapes. He then returned to the United States to work for The Pierre Hotel in New York City and The Four Seasons in Philadelphia. Timothy arrived in Napa Valley spring of 1993 and started working for Tra Vigne Restaurant in St. Helena as manager and wine buyer.
After 11 years of business, Barb & Timothy were able to hire their daughter Kristen. Born in Seattle, Washington, she grew up in St. Helena. Kristen spent 10 years working in the wine and hospitality industry before she was ready to tackle her own family business. While attending college in Napa for Psychology, she had an opportunity to work at The French Laundry and realized that she needed to start thinking more seriously about the industry that had been part of her life since birth. She continued learning through sales and relationship marketing at The Culinary Insitute, Viansa, Sterling Vineyards and Mumm Napa. Her main focus now is to build Spelletich Cellars to fit the 21st century market.
Timothy and Barb’s individual experiences in Europe, interests in wine, food, cooking and entrepreneurial drive generate an awesome team of artistry and hard work. The combination of wine industry preparation and lifelong passion is what united them in the heart of Napa Valley to launch Spelletich Cellars Winery.
Now with the second generation on board and a strong outlook on the future, we share our passion and remind you that life is to be enjoyed with food, family & friends!
Region: Napa Valley
Aging: 24 Months Hungarian & French Oak
Winemaking: Barrel Fermented Sur Lie