Pine Ridge Vineyards
2006 Dijon Clones Chardonnay
California: Carneros (Sonoma & Napa)
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s Carneros Chardonnay is an exceptional wine with exceptional character. If you are a fan of Napa Valley Chardonnay, then this wine belongs in your collection.
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Mission Codename: Return to the Ridge
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Wine Spies Operative favorite, Pine Ridge Vineyards, and secure an ample allocation of their exceptional Carneros Dijon Clone Chardonnay for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Pine Ridge Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Dijon Clones Carneros Chardonnay – Napa Valley
Winemaker: Michael Beaulac
Backgrounder: Carneros Chardonnay is revered for its quality, elegance and smoothness. The Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, has been a great source of wine that we have featured here. Always, those wine have been of supreme quality. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Chardonnay – and Chardonnay literally thrives there. Today’s Chardonnay is truly representative of the the best that region has to offer
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A beautiful and glittering straw yellow, this wine maintains its color right out to the edges of the glass. Showing off a springy and fast-settling surface when swirled, this wine leaves behind clusters of skinny legs that are slow to emerge before they march steadily down the glass
Smell – On opening, this wine presents a heady rush of aromas of pear, peach, nectarine, soft citrus flower, green apple and soft earthy arugula. After some swirling time, the wine opens up to reveal additional aromas of yeasty baked honey croissant, subtle buttered popcorn, soft cinnamon, green fig, soft oak and wet river rock (minerals)
Feel – Light on initial entry, then round and silky across the mid-palate, the wine then shows off a medium-bodied structure that fills the palate as soft yet structured tannins take hold
Taste – Delicious and balanced with bright fruit against a richer and more serious Burgundian style with flavors of green apples, tangelo, apricot, toasty vanilla, subtle butter, soft minerals and white flowers
Finish – This wine finishes long and clean with long-lingering flavors that are supported by the great acidity and mineral components
Conclusion – This is a fantastic Chardonnay that we cannot stop sipping. We also can’t stop talking about it. This wine has inspired long conversations about Chardonnay – and how, when done right, Chardonnay can be the most appealing and delicious of all the whites. This is not an overly buttery or overly lightweight California Chardonnay. Rather, it is a wine for those who are looking for a fun wine to either sip casually, or dissect, analyzing and appreciating the finer points of the wine. We encourage you to enjoy the wine under a variety of conditions and settings. We enjoyed the wine on its own and again with brick oven pizza. In both cases, the wine was the perfect companion. If you love truly outstanding Chardonnay, I would encourage you to stock up on this ready to drink marvel!
Agent Red caught up with Michael Beaulac recently. What follows is a transcript of their conversation about today’s great wine from Pine Ridge Vineyards:
AGENT RED: Greetings, Michael. We are thrilled to be showing Pine Ridges stupendous Dijon Clones Chardonnay today. The wine is really fantastic. Thanks so much for the wine, and for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
MICHAEL BEAULAC: My great pleasure to be with you, again, Red.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MICHAEL: I had a bottle of Jean Gros Vosne-Romanee and realized what a very good bottle of wine could taste like.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
MICHAEL: The school of hard knocks, started as a cellar rat and worked my way up!
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
MICHAEL: Elegance is the key. A wine should have velvet tannins that cover the palate and once swallowed should linger for several seconds
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MICHAEL: Christain Mouiex
RED: How long have you been making wine?
MICHAEL: 21 harvests
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MICHAEL: [poss answers: myself, consumers, wine reviewers] Consumers, there is nothing better than to be in a restaurant and seeing someone enjoying a bottle that I made .
RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
MICHAEL: Napa is THE perfect place to grow grapes. The warm , sunny days followed by the cool nights lets the grapes ripe n with the right balance of flavor, sugar and acidity.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
MICHAEL: Just go for it. Everyone is so helpful in this business.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MICHAEL: Getting my Dijon Clone Chardonnay and Le Petit Clos Chardonnay ready for bottling.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
MICHAEL: This wine is beautiful blend of French and California styles – the beauty of Carneros fruit in a vibrant style that retains these fruit flavors. We don’t put this wine through malolactic fermentation so there is a nice acidity that makes it perfect for food, but yet there is a lot of complexity that comes from barrel fermentation and French oak aging for nine months. It has lovely tropical fruit aromas of peach and nectarine with hints of vanilla and toast on the nose. Bright citrus flavors and a creamy, silky texture on the palate makes this wine a delight to drink – it has beautiful balance that has become the hallmark of this bottling.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MICHAEL: Lamb Loin with Shallot-Porcini Crust & Sage Butter from our winery chef Eric Maczko
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
MICHAEL: I could tell you, but then I’d have to, well, you know…
RED: Fair enough! Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
MICHAEL: For summertime, our delicious Chardonnay, and for winter, our classic Napa Valley Cabernet
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
MICHAEL: Always remember that the wine is made in the vineyard and should show its place of origin. Even more importantly, wine is about sharing with friends and family – don’t over-think it.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
MICHAEL: Petrus. I love Bordeaux wines – one of the reasons I am working at Pine Ridge. They were were founded on this style of wine and we continue to craft wines that have great balance.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
MICHAEL: What do you like best about your job? I have the best job in the world. I get to make wine in the most prestigious grape growing area of the world, Napa Valley, and I then get to share and enjoy that wine with everyone I meet.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
MICHAEL: My pleasure. Thanks for being a fan of our wines.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Pine Ridge Winery in the Stags’ Leap district in Napa County can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast (November, 2008) – Made solidly in the ripe, oaky style, this Chard does a good job at flattering the palate with its fat, oily quality. Shows its terroir with crisp acidity and bright flavors of apricots and pineapples.
90 Points – California Grapevine (May, 2008) – Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, floral, lemony, nectarine and tropcal fruit aroma with notes of vanilla; medium-full to full body; plush, citrussy, peach and baked apple flavors with a slightly creamy mouthfeel; well balanced and structured; crisp finish; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended.
88 Points – Connoisseur’s Guide (May, 2008) – Straightforward in its Chardonnay credentials of ripe apples tinged with the slightest hints of tropical fruits and taking on a veneer of creamy oak, this midsized bottling has a touch of oily smoothing to its texture before firming up in the latter palate. Clean, direct and wholly reliable.
About This Wine:
Tropical fruit aromas of peach and nectarine are delicately woven with lemon zest, vanilla and toast on the nose. This medium to full-bodied Chardonnay is teeming with a vibrant array of citrus flavors, bright acidity and a creamy, silky texture that gives way to a subtle toasty component. The finish of stone fruits and lemon peel lingers on the palate, complementing the excellent balance that has become a hallmark of the Dijon clones bottling. This wine may be enjoyed now or cellared for up to five years.
ORIGIN: This unusually complex and balanced wine is produced from grapes grown in our narrowly spaced estate vineyards in the sloping Carneros region. Pine Ridge was one of the first wineries to pair French Dijon clones with Carneros soils, which in combination with utilizing a system of controlled stress yields intense fruit flavors from smaller berries. The result is a California Chardonnay that is stylistically original, a perfect marriage of both French and California winemaking regions.
VINEYARD: Overcast mornings and cool afternoon breezes contribute to a slow and even rate of maturity of the fruit. Consequently, these grapes possess an optimal balance of sugar and acid, and an outstanding intensity of fruit flavors. Closely planted to 3.5 foot x 6 foot spacing with devigorating rootstock, our Carneros estate vineyards feature Dijon Chardonnay clones 76, 95 and 96. After a long growing season, vineyard blocks were selectively harvested over a four week period into small, 25 pound boxes to ensure that each grape was picked once optimal flavor was achieved.
WINEMAKING: After hand harvesting and hand sorting, the grapes were whole cluster pressed to new, one-year-old and two-year-old French oak Burgundy barrels for barrel fermentation. The wine was aged sur lie for nine months with occasional stirring of the lees to promote a complexity of flavors. In order to allow the true varietal character to shine through, the wine has not undergone malolactic fermentation. The wine was bottled in early August 2007.
About The Winery:
What does it take to make a world-class wine? Before setting out to make one of our own, we asked ourselves this fundamental question. Looking to the most esteemed winegrowing districts of France for our answer, we found that the greatest of the great embrace three principles: pride of ownership, profound stewardship of the land, and a relentless dedication to quality. These values were already reflected in our vineyard management and our winemaking-in our dense plantings, meticulous pruning, and hand harvesting; in our artistic blending and careful selection of coopers—but our goal was to surpass our best.
Building on the groundwork laid by the founders, we set out with ardor and high aims for our vineyards, our winery, and our wines. We would care for every vine as if it were our only vine and design a grape reception and sorting process second to none. Within a year of starting, we rebalanced the vines and completely revamped our grape-handling procedures. Every vintage since has been testament to the success of our viticultural and enological pursuits.
About The Winemaker:
I look forward to working with the seasoned team here to continue to produce classically proportioned wines that are the hallmark of Pine Ridge. – Michael Beaulac, winemaker
After a long and thorough search to find the successor to a winemaking history dating back to 1978 when the winery was founded, Michael Beaulac has been appointed Winemaker and General Manager at Pine Ridge Vineyards. Inheriting the role shaped by Stacy Clark for over 25 years, brings his expertise in winemaking with an emphasis on Bordeaux varietals from his eight years as winemaker at St. Supery Vineyards and Markham Vineyards prior to that.
“Pine Ridge has a tremendous portfolio of outstanding wines that capture the essence of our exceptional estate vineyards.” says President and CEO of the Crimson Wine Group, Erle Martin. “Stacy was instrumental in bringing the winery to where it is today, and we are excited to now have Michael on board to build off of our legacy and usher Pine Ridge into a new and exciting era. “
In his new role, Michael will oversee all grape growing and winemaking operations as well as facilities management at our winery. “With the winery’s exceptional reputation and collection of estate vineyards, this position is a winemaker’s dream. I look forward to working with the seasoned team here to continue to produce classically proportioned wines that are the hallmark of Pine Ridge,” says Michael.