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So you don't like oak?

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Gary Barlettano

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So you don't like oak?

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:22 am

<table><tr><td valign="top" colspan="2">I wandered on over to Bouchaine Vineyards today. Actually, I had wanted to go and finally take a picture of that big old winemaker statue on the outskirts of Napa, but I blew right by it. Guess I should have taken the righthand fork toward Lake Berryessa. Anyway, I decided to head to Bouchaine Vineyards instead because their '97 Pinot Noir was one of my vinous epiphanies. I know, Thomas Wolfe, but it was really a pleasant ride all the same.

I pretty much tasted through their whole line-up (what was left of it this late in the season), i.e. Buchli Station label, Chards, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Rosé of Syrah, and a funky dessert wine called Bouche d'Or which was a really tasty blend of Chardonnay and, of all things, Riesling. That was a truly unctuous event with a heavy-fruit-syrup-like mouthfeel and a spritely, exotic fruit flavor I couldn't put my finger on, pear-ish or kiwi-ish. It was, however, unique and I would have bought a bottle were I not such a skinflint.
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Then I had a pre-release drop of their '05 Chêne d'Argent, an unoaked Carneros Chardonnay. I asked and believed to hear that no ML was involved either. Bright, crisp, light and lively, full of fruit with bouncy acid. Geez, I might even start drinking Chardonnay again. The folks at Bouchaine like to translate that French name into "Silvery Oak" in reference to the stainless steel fermentation and ageing. I, cynic that I am, kind of leaned toward a looser translation, "Money Tree."

In all, I have to say that winemaker Michael Richmond had a wonderfully light hand. Only the '04 Carneros Pinot Noir seemed too oaky for my taste, but it doesn't take too much oak to turn me off. Otherwise these were real dinner wines, subtle and none too pushy. Even the Syrah was on the light side. All that bacon and all those "lardons" were left in the fridge. OK, blind one might not have recognized it as Syrah, but it was good. The pourer said it was a Syrah made in a Pinot Noir style. He might have been right.
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Lastly, get there soon. The tastings are still complimentary. They'll be charging soon ... just to keep the riff raff out. Guess they meant me!</td></tr></table>
Last edited by Gary Barlettano on Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Mike Filigenzi » Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:26 am

Nice, Gary! Makes me want to get in the car and point it west....



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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Robin Garr » Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:20 am

Gary Barlettano wrote:I wandered on over to Bouchaine Vineyards today.


Nice report! Pretty formatting, too. :)

I took the liberty of moving it to the Wine Forum, since it is, after all, wine-related ...
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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Paul B. » Sat Aug 19, 2006 11:04 am

A very nice report indeed, Gary. I have never been west of the Rockies, but the photos are interesting as they show the archetypal vinifera-amenable terroir: blue skies and near-drought :lol:

The wines sound interesting as well. I almost never buy Californian wine here in Toronto for fear of getting something with lots of confected oak and residual sugar. Zins are the obvious exception, as I like the variety and have a certain oakiness tolerance when it comes to Zin.

Unoaked Chardonnay could be the key to the variety's second wave IMO. Of course, I don't think that oaked Chardonnay in and of itself is a bad thing; poorly (i.e. excessively) oaked Chardonnay certainly is, and must have turned off lots of people by now.
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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Tyler Brebbermann » Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:02 pm

Great report, I can't wait to get out west sometime. It is nice to hear someone is doing Chardonnay in a different style than the norm.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:05 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Gary Barlettano wrote:I wandered on over to Bouchaine Vineyards today.


Nice report! Pretty formatting, too. :)

I took the liberty of moving it to the Wine Forum, since it is, after all, wine-related ...


Thanks, Robin, I was hoping you would. I have no clue how I ended up putting it where I did. Maybe one glass of Rosemount Shiraz too many during the creative process.

As to the formatting, I actually submitted this thing a couple of different ways because the photos "stretched" the window a bit. I was trying to keep it "between the lines," but haven't quite figured out how. I shrink the pictures to 320x240, but that still seems too big for a side-by-side as I have it.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:18 pm

Tyler Brebbermann wrote:Great report, I can't wait to get out west sometime. It is nice to hear someone is doing Chardonnay in a different style than the norm.


Well, Tyler, actually the pendulum seems to be swinging a little. Rabbit Ridge, St. Supéry, Bouchaine, Plumpjack, Oak Knoll in Oregon and I bet a bunch of others are doing a no-oak Chardonnay. My guess is that it either has or will become as trendy as the oaky-buttery stuff. In the end, there are no absolutes here. It's what ya' like. And wineries which find out what people like seem to survive to make wine another day. They'll probably call it Burgundian style or something similar. Regardless, I like it better and am happy it's happening.

And, Paul, you are absolutely right with the dryness, although we can thank Adobe PhotoShop for some of the blue in the sky. :roll:
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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Carlo » Sat Aug 19, 2006 3:46 pm

chateau montelena winery,mayo family winery do this too.

I love Chardonay that is crisp.
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Gary Barlettano

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Re: So you don't like oak?

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:52 pm

Carlo wrote:chateau montelena winery,mayo family winery do this too.

I love Chardonay that is crisp.


Thanks, Carlo. I'm sure we'll learn of many more, too.

I'd like to put together a tasting for us beginners including as much of the spectrum of Chardonnay styles as possible from big oak plus 100% malo to no oak and no malo. Of course, this presupposes that these are indeed the distinguishing marks and completely disregards concepts related to where and how the grapes were grown etc. Suggestions anyone? Or has Robin done this already in the past and all I have to do is look for it?
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Re: So you don't like oak?

by TimMc » Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:44 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:
Then I had a pre-release drop of their '05 Chêne d'Argent, an unoaked Carneros Chardonnay. I asked and believed to hear that no ML was involved either. Bright, crisp, light and lively, full of fruit with bouncy acid. Geez, I might even start drinking Chardonnay again.


Gary,

I quit drinking Chardonnay for the same reasons as you apparently did: Way too much oak and ML fermentation. It got to the point the wine simply made me ill.

Maybe this is the start of something good, eh? :)
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Re: So you don't like oak?

by ChefCarey » Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:15 pm

TimMc wrote:
Gary Barlettano wrote:
Then I had a pre-release drop of their '05 Chêne d'Argent, an unoaked Carneros Chardonnay. I asked and believed to hear that no ML was involved either. Bright, crisp, light and lively, full of fruit with bouncy acid. Geez, I might even start drinking Chardonnay again.


Gary,

I quit drinking Chardonnay for the same reasons as you apparently did: Way too much oak and ML fermentation. It got to the point the wine simply made me ill.

Maybe this is the start of something good, eh? :)


Ah, I've been trying to figure out why California chardonnays made me nauseous for the past 25 years! The last I enjoyed was a Chalone Private Reserve.

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