2008 Russian River Valley Reserve Chardonnay
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
EXTREMELY LIMITED QUANTITY ALERT:
The Wine Spies procured every last ace of today’s wine. We will run out, so please decide quickly if this wine is for you.
Today’s wine deserves special recognition as delivering a drinking experience above and beyond its price-class, earning it this QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Alert.
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Mission Codename: Burn it Free
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red Toasted Head, a winery best known for producing wines that are distinctive and delicious. Their wines are made using fine oak barrels that have been hand-toasted, in order to impart additional character and finesse. In time for springtime enjoyment, procure every last bottle of their 2008 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Toasted Head
Wine Subject: 2008 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay – Russian River Valley
Winemaker: Blake Kuhn
Backgrounder: 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 – Gorgeous medium golden-yellow, with perfectly even color, from core to edge. Skinny tears start high on the glass. After a few moments, they move slowly down the glass.
Smell – Zesty lemon, sweet lemon curd, citrus custard, vanilla and pineapple leap from the glass. As the wine warms and airs out, it also reveals Asian mango, sweet white spice, white flowers and toasty oak (imagine that!).
Feel – Out of the wine chiller, the wine has a somewhat lightweight feel. Allow the wine to warm, slightly, and it magically becomes more weighty, soft and silky smooth. Bright acids and subtle spice give added complexity.
Taste – Tart and sweet, leading with citrus, pineapple, lime zest and a flinty minerality. Again, allow the wine to warm up a little, and receive the rewards of sweet white flowers, custard and toasty vanilla.
Finish – Long and clean, with lingering flavors of citrus and pineapple that give way to minerals, French custard and white flowers.
Conclusion – This distinctive limited-availability Chardonnay is a big, flavorful wine with plenty of character. With lots of dark oak flavor, this wine still shines with solid fruit. Smooth, but not buttery, this wine is a real palate-pleaser, as well. Be sure to allow the wine to warm up in the glass, for best flavors and aromatics. As the wine warms, it really opens up, revealing characteristics that were not there on opening. Pair with something zesty, like a BBQ chicken! Also, act quickly, as we will sell out!
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The Vineyard – The grapes for our Barrel Reserve Chardonnay come from five outstanding vineyards in the Russian River Valley. This celebrated cool-climate region, with its morning fog and chilly evenings, enjoys a lengthy growing season, affording our Chardonnay grapes extended hang time on the vine. Warm, sunny afternoons and well-drained Goldridge sandy loam soils ripen the grapes to perfection, enabling our white winemaker, Blake Kuhn, to craft a distinctive, complex Chardonnay with rich fruit, oak, and malolactic flavors balanced by fresh acidity and the Russian River Valley’s telltale minerality.
About The Winery:
Toasted Head and the fire-breathing bear began their amazing journey in 1995. From a winery tucked away in the Dunnigan Hills of Yolo County, they set out to spread the word of toasted barrels and their distinctive influence on wine.
Toasted Head is named for the age-old practice of toasting barrel heads and staves that imparts a mellow, toasted flavor to barrel-aged wines.
The fire-breathing bear on our label was originally inspired by a drawing created by artist Robert Shetterly for a poem entitled “Speaking Fire at Stones.”
…every one of these stones contains a bear. You just have to burn it free. — William Carpenter, Speaking Fire at Stones
The mystery and wry humor of the bear, coupled with our commitment to superior winemaking, perfectly captures the Toasted Head state of mind.
Toasted Head Winemakers:
Blake Kuhn – Senior White Winemaker – A native Californian, Blake graduated in 1995 from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in biology and environmental sciences. He subsequently spent three years traveling the world as a field biologist, studying insects, parasites and wolves. Returning to Santa Barbara in 1997, Blake worked on an abalone farm and took a second job as a waiter in a French restaurant, where his interest in wine was stoked. He began taking viticulture and enology classes at a local college and immersed himself in the South Coast wine scene, concluding that winemaking, like field biology, would enable him to work outside with a living organism – but one better-suited to food. In 2000, Blake moved to Davis to further his wine education at UC Davis, but instead took an entry level job with Toasted Head, beginning as a grape sampler in the vineyard, graduating to cellar and lab work, then to assistant winemaker, and finally, in 2005, to Toasted Head White winemaker. He enjoys making wine in the Dunnigan Hills, he says, because “there’s no else around, so we have to generate our own discoveries.”
Blake appreciates the opportunity to work with both the warm-climate grapes of the Dunnigan Hills and the cool-region fruit Toasted Head sources from Russian River Valley and Mendocino County vineyards. His favorite part of the winemaking process is blending, because “you get to take all these intricate pieces and fit them together.”
Blake and his wife are avid surfers who travel frequently to primo surfing spots in Mexico, Nicaragua and Indonesia. With no surfing in the Dunnigan Hills, they enjoy exploring the farming communities of the Sacramento Valley and nearby Sierra Foothills.
Owen Smith – Senior Red Winemaker – Owen was born in Rhode Island and grew up in Seattle, New Jersey and Fresno, spending summers in interesting places like England, El Salvador and Colorado. He attended college in Boston, where he became interested in wine and then returned to Fresno, where he graduated from Fresno State University with a degree in Enology. After working for the Fresno County Library driving a Bookmobile and providing library services to inmates of the Fresno County Jail, Owen began his winemaking career at wineries in northern Michigan, eastern Pennsylvania and central Virginia before spending three years on the Golan Heights in Israel working for a winery with a view of both the Syrian and Lebanese borders. He returned to the United States in 1999 and has been at Toasted Head ever since.
Owen says he was attracted to Toasted Head by the opportunity to work with Viognier (the Virginia winery at which he worked, Horton Vineyards, was the first producer of Viognier on the east coast), and has since enjoyed the challenge of expanding Toasted Head’s red wine program from estate Shiraz to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir sourced from some of the best growing areas in California’s North Coast. Besides wine, Owen’s interests include travel, history and exploring urban areas by bicycle. At last count, he has made wine from over 60 different grape varieties, as well as cherries and peaches.
“I believe in using appropriate technology to bring out the best each vineyard and variety has to offer,” Owen says, “then blending the different components to create balanced, expressive wines.”
Region: Russian River Valley