Located at the foot of Sonoma County, the Russian River Valley has become the source of some of California's finest chardonnay. While the chardonnays coming from Monterey County and the Central Coast seem to be tasting more on the tropical side, the Russian River Valley wines tend to exhibit more traditional fall and stone fruit flavors. The over-riding theme here is lean, Burgundian restraint. This is in part a result of the blanketing, cooling fog drawn inland from the Pacific.
Two really stunning Russian River Valley chardonnays that we have recently aquired here at Wines.com from Rutz Cellars. The 2004 Maison Grand Cru is fat and rich, showing honeyed vanilla notes. This wine went through complete malolactic fermentation and over six months maturation resting on lees. For the layperson, the ultimate effect of all of this is a big, lovely, lush chardonnay. Toasty oak notes weave through the spicy pear, honey, apricot & nectarine flavors. This full-bodied wine is nonetheless perfect with elegant poultry dishes, say, roast turkey. On sale at Wines.com for $15 per bottle (typically $30).
The 2005 Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay comes from Wente clone vines planted in the fog belt of the RRV. These low-yielding vines produce fruit of great intensity and focused minerality. The fresh, crisp acidity of this wine surrounds a midpalate rich with vanilla and peach. The understated oak component serves as a delightful, enhancing counterpoint to its natural, refreshing, lengthy finish. This vintage truly is one of California's best efforts. On sale for $29 per bottle at Wines.com (usualy priced $60-$70).