Melissa Kelly Wines

2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Chardonnay •Sangiacomo Vineyards

California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Coast

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Mission Codename: Endeavor of Passion

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Secure a limited production Chardonnay produced from grapes at the esteemed Sangiacomo Vineyards

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Melissa Kelly Wines

Wine Subject: 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Winemaker: Mark Ray


The Sonoma Coast AVA is the 750 square mile area with the Pacific ocean on its western boundary, the San Pablo Bay to the south and Mendocino County to the north, headed inland to the other designated AVAs in Sonoma County. The region is heavily influenced by the cooler ocean climate, increased rainfall and fog that lingers long on the coastal mountains. The specific climate suits the demanding Burgundian varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir very well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Golden yellow with subtle orange honey hues in its clear core. Pale to clear along the edges with slow tears that hang before descending to the wine below.

Smell – Medium in intensity with aromas of green tree fruit that blend with soft tropical and tart citrus hints. Soft toasted and yeasty biscuit blends with fragrant honey, spice, white flower blossoms with a touch of balanced toasted oak.

Feel – This dry and full-bodied with has a creamy and generous mouth feel. Fresh acidity that interacts nicely with its creamy texture with a soft tartness that lingers into the finish.

Taste – Soft tart citrus blends with tart green apple along with a touch of ripe tropical fruits lead the way and are followed by notes of soft spice, vanilla toast and whey.

Finish – Long and clean with this creamier mouthfeel giving way to the fresh acidity leaving behind tart and crisp citrus hints.

Conclusion – The 2008 Melissa Kelly Wines Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a fresh and fuller-bodied Chardonnay that balances its fuller body with its lively acidity making this a great wine to pair with aged cheeses or grilled fish. A long clean finish and aromatic nose adds to the experience. Enjoy this wine tonight or cellar for up to three years.

Mission Report:



WINE EDUCATION: Studied Chemistry at the College of Charleston , Charleston , SC, winemaking classes at University of California Davis, mostly learned hand on during work in California wineries

Harvest 2008 & 2009 with Jed Steele at Steele wines
2000 – Worked in lab at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville ; moonlighted at Turley Wine Cellars
2001 – 2003 – Wssistant winemaker for Ehren Jordan at Neyers Vineyards
2004 – 2007 – Assistant winemaker for Bob Cabral at Williams Selyem Winery

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Pay attention to the details and don’t screw up what nature and great farmers have given you. Use your senses, and be intimately involved in the winemaking process. Don’t rely on numbers alone.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “In water one sees one’s own face, but in wine one beholds the heart of another.” – French Proverb



AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

MARK RAY: It’s always a pleasure to share my wines with the fine folks at The Wine Spies! Your Operatives have great taste.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MARK: I grew up in a family of restaurateurs and inherited my father’s love for wine. One of my first significant memories of wine was my father excitement at sharing an inexpensive bottle of Egri Bikavér with the restaurant staff during a meal. His enthusiasm was contagious.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MARK: Winemaker – Bob Cabral. Allowed me to work with some of the best vineyards in California and taught me the attention to detail, dedication, hard work and passion that is necessary to make great wines.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MARK: For those who love the magic of food and wine and understand that the right combinations can be greater than the sum of the parts. For wine lovers looking for truly handcrafted small production wines. And for my wife, for whom I named this Chardonnay after.

RED: That’s very romantic, Mark. Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

MARK: The 2008 Melissa Kelly Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast appellation was crafted with my wife in mind. Her favorite warm weather wine is Chardonnay. Nothing too heavy…more a light toasty oak, with beautiful citrus notes. This is what I strive to make for Melissa Kelly Wines.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MARK: Sole Meunier, Pan fried Sanddabes or ANY white flakey fish, summer corn soup or soufflé, and my favorite, blue crab and lobster cakes.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Coast so special?

MARK: Besides the breathtaking views of the coastline, the Sonoma Coast offers a cold-climate and many rainy days. Because the Petaluma Gap helps pull cool air inland, wine grapes grown here are slow to mature and are usually some of the last berries harvested in the Sonoma region. They provide some of the best Chardonnay available with flavor profiles unlike any anywhere else.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MARK: I just finished bottling a clients red wines. Since it takes so many moving pieces to bottle wine…wine, labels, bottles, corks, capsules, boxes. I’m taking a little down time before harvest kicks in (whenever that may be this year).

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

MARK: Enjoying wine shouldn’t be complicated. It is a very subjective experience, much like the enjoyment of music or art. Trust your own palate and don’t let anyone tell you what you should smell or taste. Slow down and really experience the wine. Look at it closely, see how the light moves through the wine and how it moves about the glass. Spend some time with your nose in the glass and enjoy the aromatics of the wine. I often find this to be the most pleasurable aspect of wine; eighty to ninety percent of what we perceive as taste is actually due to our sense of smell. Then move on to tasting. Move the wine around the mouth, pull some air through it. Try it by itself, then with some food. Share it!

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MARK: My favorite quote is from Julia Childs, “You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” That’s why I love making wine. I learn something new every day.

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 location of the Sangiacomo Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

Wonderfully rich and complex, with layers of pear, apple, citrus and melon flavors that are long and intense on the finish.

This wine was made using native yeasts and malolactic bacteria. The fermentation was long and slow with the two lots finishing the secondary fermentation in April of 2009. The blended wine was dry, stable and bottled without fining or filtration.

About The Winery:

Melissa Kelly Wines was founded in 2007 by husband and wife team Mark and Melissa Ray. After moving to California in 2001, Mark spent nearly a decade honing his craft working alongside some of North America’s most renowned winemakers, including Steve Leveque at Robert Mondavi, Ehren Jordan at Turley Wine Cellars and Neyers Vineyards, and Bob Cabral at Williams Selyem. It was during the spring of 2007 that the opportunity to create a small Chardonnay label presented itself to Mark. With the assistance from his wife, Melissa Kelly Wines was created. Focusing on one variety, Chardonnay, Melissa Kelly Wines, produces wine from the Sonoma Coast appellation.

Why the bee??? Melissa is a given name for a female. It has a Greek origin, meaning honey bee. In Greek mythology Melissa is the name of one of the nymphs who helped save Zeus from his father, Cronus. She hid him in the hills and fed him milk from Amalthea and honey. When Melissa’s role in protecting Zeus was discovered, Cronus turned her into a lowly species of insect. After Zeus came into power, he changed Melissa into a honeybee.

About Missy Ray: Melissa Ray, a native to South Carolina, developed an interest in wine while working at Louis’s Charleston Grill in Charleston, SC. Under the tutelage of both Louis and Marlene Osteen, Melissa was exposed to not only the great wines of California, but also of France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
To further her education, Melissa obtained a sales representative position with Southern Wine & Spirits and later with the London Wine Man. As her passion of wine grew, so did the desire to be more connected to the wine industry thus prompting several trips to the California wine country. It was during one of these trips that Melissa and her husband Mark worked harvest for Jed Steele. That was it, the wine bug had bitten; they returned to Charleston and began planning their move to California. In February 2001 Melissa and Mark packed up and headed west. While working for a small family owned winery in Oakville, California, the opportunity to create a small Chardonnay label presented itself. So in the fall of 2007, Melissa Kelly Wines was created.

Technical Analysis:

Composition: 100% Chardonnay

Vineyard Source: Sangiacomo Vineyards, Green Acres Hill 56.7% (8½ barrels); Vella Ranch 43.3% (6½ barrels)

Appellation: Sonoma Coast

Harvest Dates: October 10th and 26th, 2008

Barrel Aging: 13 months in 33% new oak, Francois Frères & Louis Latour

Bottling Date: December 9th, 2009

Alcohol: 14.5% by vol. (14.2%)

pH: 3.67

Cases Produced: 374

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