Windsor Oaks Vineyards
2010 Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Mighty Whitey
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red back to the fabled Windsor Oaks Vineyards, a winery that also grows grapes for some of the most sought-after wines in California. Secure their own Unoaked Russian River Chardonnay, a perfectly balanced gem, for our thirsty Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Windsor Oaks Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay – Russian River Valley
Winemaker: Julie Lumgair
Windsor Oaks Vineyards grow grapes that go on to become fine wines from a handful prestigious producers. They also produce a small handful of distinctive wines under their own label. These wines represent the best of the best, often at a fraction of the price of those other wines.
The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Chardonnay (as well as Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel) of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the RRV ideal for growing Burgundian varietals. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Golden straw-yellow with glinting edges when swirled. When the wine settles, tal columns of fat legs start high on the glass, and then run very slowly downward.
Smell – Bold and bright, with fruit that leaps from the glass. Leading with fresh citrus, pineapple and white peach, the wine also reveals tart green apple, subtle white spice and dried white flower petals.
Feel – Smooth, soft and very round, on entry. Then, this medium bodied white reveals a lively acidity and excellent tannin, with soft minerals that sustain the lovely flavors long into the finish.
Taste – Fresh white pear, peach, citrus, green apple and soft spice weave their way around follow-on flavors of Meyer lemon, guava, acacia flowers and Asian pear.
Finish – Long and clean, with crisp, bright and refreshing fruit that lingers for a very long time.
Conclusion – The 2010 Windsor Oaks Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay – Russian River Valley is a delicious Chardonnay with brilliant great flavors and a soft and sexy mouthfeel. With great structure and bright acids, this wine is wonderfully balanced. Allow the wine to warm, a little, and be rewarded with even more softness – and flavor. Springtime is just around the corner, but we’re also drinking this fantastic wine, now. Enjoy with your favorite seafood dish, creamy pasta or cheese and fruit plate.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Julie Hagler Lumgair
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Karma…I never, never cut corners. The only way to know you’ve done your job as a winemaker is to pour some and watch folks’ smiles…then recall all those long days and know it was just right.
So what is “not cutting corners?” Besides just working hard to follow all four seasons, I passionately believe in following the fruit and expressing in the glass a tricky hierarchy: the vintage, then the vineyard, then show some moves and show the vineyard blocks and clones and my own style! True Estate winemaking is harder than blended approaches (nowhere to hide when Mother Nature throws your geographical a curve ball) but extremely rewarding and absolutely beautiful if you keep an open mind and follow the clues Mother Nature provides. It is never a formula, but a living study. This is why it is a pleasure and privilege to make anywhere from 1 to 7 different Pinots or 4 Chardonnays, etc. in a given vintage. Just follow, study, then express!
I guess I’m every bit at home in the vineyard as on the crushpad or bottling day. It’s all about the ART of growing fine wine for our whole team in the field and the winery, then not taking a strong start for granted. Perfect picking is key, but just a starting line for the race ahead. I hand-craft wines literally barrel by barrel, from individual vineyard blocks, with a winery team that truly grew up in the vineyards and still work in the vines every week. It is the epitome of careful winemaking, as our whole team actually planted those vines and tends the fruit year round. We do not yet 3-tier distribute our estate wines, but choose instead to sell direct from the cellar door, and now with Wine Spies!
My muse is my husband, estate and vineyard manager Douglas Lumgair, who has worked with our general partner, Bob Stein, and vineyard foreman, Lupe Ruiz, for 20+ years. Douglas and Lupe pulled out 175 acres of old vines starting in the 1990’s and have reworked and replanted the perfect combinations of varietal clones and rootstocks to make Windsor Oaks a crown jewel of Sonoma County. Winemaker’s heaven! Our vineyard team is a family and true “old Sonoma style” village of 20 people that believe that “good enough” isn’t even close – our goal over all these years has been to deliver the absolute best wine grapes to our own small and focused artisan brand that uses ~9% of the vineyard’s fruit, and to dazzle the 25+ boutique and artisan wineries that use our grapes in their beautiful wines. In fact, I make wine for some of our other winery friends…but our lips are sealed! We are deeply honored to grow for some of the finest artisan winemakers in the business. It really is a big neighborly approach….
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Share the love and follow the Golden Rule! We are fortunate to have such amazing friends and family – thank you!”
WINEMAKER’S EDUCATION: Short answer is lots of hard work on a path from Rx to OTC to food to culinary to viticulture to wine, with a lot of stops on the way for added education thanks to the great folks at a number of universities, many industry resources, midnight oil and mentors, including notable farming and chef friends plus great winemaker mentors.
Born as a 5th generation farmer, Julie started her journey of sensory studies and made her mark early in oral care pharmaceutical and OTC oral care products at Procter & Gamble, through a series of global merger team assignments working on how to overcome serious problems of the palate, upper gastrointestinal tract and oral care challenges for many people including a focus on improving quality of life for immunocompromised patients with cancer, HIV-AIDS and oral surgery complications. Success in food, culinary and wine followed. To this day, she believes it was studying the details of how people lost touch with their senses and palates, and how they could recover some of the lost territory, that showed a different path to creating wines to hit a broad array of magical places for so many people.
AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Julie. We are thrilled to be showing your Estate 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
WINEMAKER: Thanks, Agent White! This is an honor to raise a glass with all of you.
WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
WINEMAKER: Sometimes the road to the cellar door goes around the bend, and back! I grew up in a dry county in Tennessee and learned about fine wine through my parents encouraging travel abroad in Europe which really celebrates its local traditions of farming and fermenting the best of a very specific region. That was eye-opening to see local foods, cheeses, beers and wines with the people behind each enjoying them seamlessly with family and friends, and sharing them with us, too! I felt like an insider…it was transformative. I then had a wonderful college mentor who was a fine wine collector and shared knowledge and tasting with a generous heart. Oops, I just told you all the stuff before I even turned 21… Well, now I’m, ummm, not 21, and my love of wine has found a prefect home in Sonoma County. This is my modern paradise with the same magical combination of local food, wine, hospitality, friends and family from all those years ago in Europe.
WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
WINEMAKER: I think the ultimate winemaker an style maker is Mother Nature. Growing up a farmer, you realize she really makes everything, and we wait and make the most of the gifts. On a more local field, for quality and varietal expertise, I’m thankful every day for over seven vintages of advice, support and input from all of the great winemakers that Windsor Oaks has grown grapes for over the years. We do a LOT of grower tastings each vintage, so sometimes the math adds up to my own experiments and key lots plus over 12 more looks at a given varietal. It’s like seeing multiple harvests in just a year. Since my husband, Douglas, and I are both professional wine judges as well, I give lots respect to that view as well. Seeing your own region, then seeing so much from around the world is truly humbling and deeply educational. Tastes great, too.
WHITE: Who do you make wine for?
WINEMAKER: Folks that appreciate crafted wine made with artisan quality and heart.
Plus, folks that actually want to drink wine that over-delivers the price point, and if they call the winery, they could talk to the winemaker. Back to that “connection” point.
WHITE: Please tell me a about the wine we are featuring today.
WINEMAKER: You’re showcasing my Windsor Oaks Estate 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay. The vineyards I work with cover a series of cool microclimate vineyard blocks, each planted with unique historic vine cuttings called “clones.” Each is chosen to show the optimal mix of site, vine and desired winemaking style. Each vintage I make both Unoaked Chardonnays and Reserve styles (barrel aged, partial malolactic fermentation)– something for every food pairing and palate!
Our Unoaked Chardonnay truly shows the bold intensity of flavors from the unusually cold 2010 vintage, and its vineyard site, Block 8, the Robert Young clone 17, under the Russian River Valley fogline in alluvial cobble soils that concentrate the intensity of the fruit’s flavors. I’m passionate that wines made in steel do not have to taste thin or shallow. They should instead reflect crisp and distinctly clean mineral and fruit notes, and hold up to a high standard of complex and sophisticated winemaking.
WHITE: A few sips into this Unoaked Chardonnay shows me a mouthfeel and weight I can’t believe comes from a Chardonnay with no barrel aged concentration or fermentation. What’s going on?
WINEMAKER: That’s something we hear all the time from sommeliers – nice catch! Some of the magic is a secret of knowing when to do what, but the highlights are that I made Windsor Oaks’ Estate 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay “sur-lie” (stirring for months on its natural lees) with multiple yeasts in separate picking date and fermentation lots to build layers of lovely and complex flavors, plus rich mouthfeel. Each lot was fermented in small stainless steel barrels (remember, no oak!) at low temperatures with no malolactic fermentation. This layering, plus the natural grape acids highly concentrate the wine’s bright, lush flavors of fragrant meyer lemon, ripe citrus, stone fruits, pineapple and white peach finishing with a long, clean balance of fruit and minerals. The hours and hours of blending all through the journey of the wine down to the last <1% are the touches of detail and beauty that shine in the glass. Only 190 cases produced.
p.s. I couldn’t resist playing with the Chardonnay in 2010, so this wine has a sister from vineyard Block 10, our 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay – Muscat 809 Clone – Russian River Valley. Only 65 cases produced.
WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
WINEMAKER: Our Unoaked Chardonnay’s balanced acidity and concentrated flavors are perfect with foods like shrimp, salsas, spiced or seasoned seafood, spicy Thai, Mexican or Indian that you might usually enjoy with crisp wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or even cold beer….and, it is so perfect for a refreshing glass all by itself. Jump in!
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
WINEMAKER: Location , location, location! Welcome to Rodeo Drive for Chardonnay and Pinot noir in particular. Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, is just fifty-five short miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean by way of the Russian River. Winegrowing here is built on a long tradition that produces some of the finest wines in the world. Windsor Oaks Estate vineyards are right in the direct line of influence for the Russian River gap that funnels the Pacific Ocean’s maritime influences through the western mountain range.
All that fancy grape grower and winemaking stuff adds up to lovely grapes and wine with highly concentrated flavors, yet very balanced acid levels and long, cool time on the vine to develop complexity.
Of course, it takes the full talent of the vineyard team and winemaker to unlock the magic – it’s nature and nurture. Just like mining for diamonds, then polishing them to brilliance. I just cut and polish what Mother Nature sends us each year!
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
WINEMAKER: Blending for bottling nine new wines in April, walking the vineyards with our winemaker friends and Douglas, and getting ready for our big “Barrel Weekends” event for 6 remarkable days of tasting wines directly from barrels as “futures” in early March. We have a vibrant Futures program, well worth a look since I sure don’t put anything less than best in that 6 day beauty contest covering 150 wineries in the North of Sonoma County. We shine!
WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
WINEMAKER: Wine is one of life’s simple luxuries and it brings us together. Drink what inspires you and enjoy the moment. Cheers!
WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
WINEMAKER: I’ve been making an Unoaked style of no-ML Chardonnay since the 2007 vintage, and am thrilled to see how well these clean, complex and fruit-focused wines are doing for us and for the market as a whole. For both Chardonnay lovers, and folks that think they are not “into Chardonnay,” I invite you to expand your horizon and see why this is one of the fastest growing trends in winemaking. Well, we’re small, but I can honestly say we got to the party early, and it’s a great party to try!
WHITE: 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 Windsor Oaks Vineyards and Winery in the Chalk Hill AVA can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Our Unoaked Chardonnay is made sur-lie with multiple yeasts in stainless steel at low temperatures with no malolactic fermentation. This layering, plus the natural grape acids highly concentrate the wine’s bright, lush flavors of fragrant meyer lemon, ripe citrus, stone fruits, pineapple and white peach finished with a long, clean balance of fruit and minerals. It truly shows the bold intensity of flavors from the unusually cold 2010 vintage.
About The Winery:
The vineyards of Windsor Oaks are located in Sonoma County, in the foothills and benchlands overlooking the Russian River Valley, between the cities of Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. The entire property is in excess of 700 acres, of which approximately 350 acres are dedicated to “Forever Wild Open Space.” The remaining 250 acres are planted in blocks of new and old vineyards carrying the dual appellations of Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill, representing two of the most recognized growing regions for outstanding quality wine grapes.
About The Wineyards:
Due to our world-class viticultural location and unusually spacious acreage with highly diverse terroir, Windsor Oaks represents a rarity in wine country. It is a wine lover’s dream, where both viticultural and winemaking experts worked together over many years, sparing no expense to create vineyards producing the best quality fruit.
Years of careful work analyzing over 700 acres, pinpointed 250 acres where specific types of wine grapes best fit with some of the finest micro-climates and soils for growing ultra-premium grapes in Sonoma County. Each type of grape, and the specific rootstocks and clones within them, were selected for over 50 distinct vineyard blocks nestled throughout the steep hills, high terraces and low valleys.
Beyond the well-located vineyard blocks, significant areas are dedicated as ‘Forever Wild’ untouched open space, featuring a rich collection of at least seven types of native oak trees, meadows filled with wildflowers, canyons and a multitude of wildlife.
The mix of carefully planted vineyards combined with the significant ‘Forever Wild’ acres of beautiful ancient oak trees and wilderness create an inspirational environment. The vineyards and the wine grapes they produce benefit from both exceptional terroir and a small close-knit group of people that have worked together for one or two decades each to nurture the vineyards and learn best ways to help the many small blocks of vines produce the optimal fruit.
The result is a long-standing tradition of growing twelve types of ultra-premium wine grapes for a number of top-tier wineries that produce highly awarded wines.
About The Winemaker:
JULIE HAGLER LUMGAIR – As winemaker, Julie makes the highly awarded hand-crafted artisan line and also does custom crush winemaking at Windsor Oaks Vineyards (a private 700+ acre estate in the heart of Sonoma County’s renowned Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill AVA’s). She additionally leads the strategic sales and marketing of luxury winegrapes to the Estate’s 35+ winemaker clients.
To enhance the quality of her winemaking, Julie is continually comparing winemaking notes and tastings with the over 35 artisan winemakers that buy their grapes from Windsor Oaks. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine and active member of the Society of Wine Educators where she enjoys a deep exposure to wines and winegrowing traditions from all regions of the world. She also serves in research and marketing roles for the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission (Grape Growers) and is very active in the Russian River Valley Winegrowers AVA group.
Julie also enjoys wine judging in some noted competitions. Wine judging is a natural extension of Julie’s passion for wine, combined with her years of technical experience which cover a broad range of beverage and food judging, numerous consumer and chef-based sensory evaluation studies and global new product development. She has won numerous national marketing industry awards including National Gold Effie and Gold Edison Awards for her brand management and consulting work in both Fortune 100 and private firms.
She also guest lectures for industry panels and academic groups, supports various charities and cultural organizations, and remains active in her family’s fifth generation multi-faceted farming operation. She enjoys living and working at Windsor Oaks Vineyards with her husband and muse, Douglas (General Manager and partner at Windsor Oaks Vineyards and Winery).
Production: 190 Cases