What We Say 2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
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Mission Codename: Harvest at dawn
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure an ample allocation of an exceptional Russian River Valley Chardonnay for our fine wine loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Davis Bynum Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma County
Winemaker: Gary Patzwald
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. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A gorgeous golden-yellow, this wine maintains its solid golden hues right out to the edge of the glass. Displaying a bouncy and slow-moving surface when swirled, this wine leaves behind chubby, tightly-spaced legs that take a long time to emerge before they sidle slowly down the inside of the glass
Smell – On opening, this wine presents a delightful rush of bold aromas of soft citrus, soft green apple, caramel, pear, subtle banana and a warm earthy vanilla. After some swirling, the wine softens and opens up to reveal additional tropical notes and a soft minerality
Feel – Full, lush and round all across the palate, then slightly dry as the wine shows off a lush medium-bodied structure that fills the palate as soft and structured tannins take gentle hold
Taste – Delicious and slightly bold with flavors of tart apples, citrus, soft vanilla and subtle sandlewood – with a soft minerality and a bright acidity that give support to the rich flavors
Finish – This wine finishes extra long and very clean with long-lingering flavors that are supported by the great acidity and the mineral components
Conclusion – A delightful balance of bright California fruit, set atop a more full Burgundian style. This is a really delightful that invites big mouth-sized sips. We love the complexity of the wine and the rich flavors. Despite the depth of the wine, it does have its subtleties. On exploring the wine and taking your time with it, new layers of aromas and flavors reveal themselves. Those Operatives that follow my white wine reviews know that I am incredibly hard to please when it comes to white wines. Today’s Davis Bynum Chardonnay is a delicious delight that is long on character – but but with a light-hearted side that makes this wine serious, but also great fun to drink!
Below is a recap of our first encounter with Davis Bynum Wines by Agent Red and Dr. Pinot.
For today’s mission, I called upon Dr. Pinot, a trusted asset with a nose for sleuthing great Pinot Noir.
I was given three single vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, and I needed to pick the best one for today’s wine offering.
Each of the wines was placed in a paper bag, concealing their true identities. We mixed them up and then proceeded to taste through them. Interestingly, the wines progressed from lighter in stye to darker and more rich. The middle wine – today’s wine – was the clear winner, exhibiting the best all-around balance of the three.
A hearty thanks to Dr. Pinot for helping me to choose today’s wine. What follows is the possibly-true story of Dr. Pinot’s own personal encounter with today’s wine:
Doctor Pinot Goes Kayaking
The Russian River was higher than normal for this time of the year due to the late spring rains, making for a quick float down stream from Healdsburg. Padding over to a flat spot at the base of a steep bank, on the back side of what was now considered by some in the area to be the holy grail of Russian River vineyard sites, Doctor Pinot jumped into the shallows, and secured his kayak on the rocky beach.
Reaching into his boat, opening the hatch to the watertight stowage compartment, he pulled out a bottle from an old friend. A friend who used to cajole him each harvest to come back from his station in some unknown, godforsaken place, to decompress by helping with that year’s winemaking at his new Northwest Sonoma County winery project. His friend, Davis Bynum, journalist turned winemaker was great at shaking hands with the growers in the area, and securing fruit from the best vineyard sites in the Russian River AVA for his famed single vineyard Pinot Noirs.
Doctor Pinot opened his treasured bottle of 2005 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir, from a site he knew well, located in the Russian River Valley. This site consistently produced Pinot Noirs with balance and concentration.
Opening the bottle, and pouring the wine into his Reidel “O” glass, Doctor Pinot tasted and closed his eyes as the wine took him back to his college days working as a vendangeur at Etienne Sauzet’s property in Puligny-Montrachet. This wine had a ‘somewhereness’. This land, this place had made its mark, exhibiting aromas of earth and hillside redwood forest floor, layered with vanilla and smoke, that soon evolved into flavors of orange peel, late summer raspberries, wild strawberries and cocoa. Doctor Pinot, normally quiet, but never at a loss for words, could only think of one at this moment in time … WOW!
What the Winery Says
Davis Bynum Winery
About This Wine:
Davis Bynum Chardonnay is driven by vineyard sites. The eastern parts of Russian River Valley, nearing Highway 101, tend to be slightly warmer than the very cool western reaches. While maintaining ample crispness due to balanced acidity, the additional warmth pushes the flavor profile toward tropical and the mouth-feel to a round texture that is at once lush, but with a clean lingering finish.
“Winemaking in Russian River Valley is a true pleasure. No other region outside of Burgundy stamps as distinct a signature pinot noir and chardonnay. I see my job as winemaker to naturally guide the fruit through the fermentation process, maturing the wine in the finest French oak barrels, all the while retaining the authentic flavors of the region.” – Gary Patzwald, Winemaker
Clones: 4, 15, 76, Wente, Spring Mtn.
Vineyards: Eastern uplands of Russian River Valley
Soils: Well drained loams mixed with gravels and volcanic ash
About The Winery:
Davis Bynum is distinguished as the first winery to produce a single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley. The vintage was 1973 and the grapes were from Joe Rochioli’s now prized vineyard. Today, more than thirty years later, the heritage of Davis Bynum lives on through the hand crafted creation of pinot noir and chardonnay grown exclusively in Russian River Valley.
As the first winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg, California, Davis Bynum was the first to produce a single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley. The vintage was 1973 and the grapes were from Joe Rochioli’s now prized vineyard. Today, more than thirty years later, the heritage of Davis Bynum lives on through the hand crafted creation of pinot noir and chardonnay grown exclusively in Russian River Valley.
Davis Bynum first flirted with winemaking at home in Berkeley when he was a young reporter working at the San Francisco Chronicle. It was 1951 and he purchased a small amount of petite sirah from Robert Mondavi. Things became a bit more serious in 1965 when he transformed a warehouse in Albany into a small winery, where he made wine using knowledge gained from the extensive library at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1971 Bynum purchased a 26-acre vineyard in Napa Valley with the intention to build a winery. Restrictions on construction in the area led him away from that venture and into Sonoma County in 1973, where he found an 84-acre piece of land that quickly became Davis Bynum Winery.
Davis established a quality reputation for the winery, in large part due to solid relationships with the local community of growers. Grapes from great vineyards, often based on hand-shake agreements, along with “intuitive winemaking”, as he refers to it, led the winery to become synonymous with distinctive Russian River Valley pinot noirs and chardonnays. Eventually, acclaim for Bynum wines, along with other area producers, won Russian River Valley recognition as one of the worlds’ very best for these varieties.
In August 2007, ready to retire from the day-to-day activities of running a winery, Davis sold the winery to Tom Klein and the Klein family, a fourth generation California farming family. The focus on Russian River Valley remains the same and the goal to produce excellent chardonnay and pinot noir is unchanged. Bynum agreed to stay with the brand for three years, providing insight and support.
Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Fermentation Details: whole cluster press
Oak Aging: Aged 11 months in 1 ak barr
TA: 0.56 g/100mL
Alc. by Vol.: 14.1%
Production: 4800 cases