Chardonnay La Carrière
AVA, Peter Michael Winery, 2016
Pale golden yellow with bright green tinge. Floral nose of acacia and citrus. On palate this wine is in the precision of all the estate's wines: purity, minerality and creaminess reflect the expertise of Peter Michael, who makes some of the most interesting Chardonnays in the United States.
Peter Michael Estate
In the 1970s, Sir Peter Michael came to California as a young engineer and discovered the emerging wine world of California, with some excellent names already drawing international attention.
This awakened his desire to try something new. The search for a suitable piece of land ended in the secluded Knights Valley on the western slope of Mount St. Helena, in the east of Sonoma County, north of Napa Valley. The first vines were planted in 1983. His son Paul was helping out at the time and was full of enthusiasm, although the rows of vines were extremely difficult to set up on the very steep (inclines of up to 40%), stony layers of primarily volcanic rock. Later, Sir Peter was able to buy more plots of land on the coast and in Oakville, in Napa: Fort Ross-Seaview, with perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir, and Au Paradis, planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
The winery is not easy to find. If you're not careful, you can easily drive past it and continue up the hill, where you will be rewarded with a fantastic view over the vineyards and two lakes. It seldom rains, which is why the artificial lakes were built for irrigation. The dry climate promotes sustainable and natural resource management.
In the Les Pavots area, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot ripen to produce the eponymous cult wine. In the vineyards of Belle Côte and La Carrière they grow Chardonnay and in L’Après-Midi Sauvignon Blanc. The Ma Belle-Fille and Ma Danseuse vineyards are planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and have been named in honour of Sir Peter’s daughter-in-law and of Lady Michael, who as a young woman was an enthusiastic dancer.
In the cellar, Frenchman Nicolas Morlet has been in charge since 2005, producing successful wines year after year, many of which feature in the top League of California. With a cool glass of wine, resting on the terrace of the winery in a deck chair, you will feel like a king in California. You could almost forget that you are in the United States, because the wines are reminiscent of their counterparts in France. Sir Peter has achieved his goal: to produce wines which combine the best of California and France.
King or beggar?
Hardly any variety of vine shows such a broad spectrum of quality as the Chardonnay. Its wines range from faceless neutrality to breath-taking class. It is an extremely low-maintenance vine, which explains why it is grown around the world – even in places where it probably should not be. The aromas of the Chardonnay variety are not very pronounced: a bit of green apple, a little hazelnut; in warmer latitudes, also melon and exotic fruits. The wines are often defined by maturing in casks. They develop more or less subtle notes of butter, toasted bread and vanilla. The grapes achieve their highest expression in their region of origin, Burgundy. Its heart beats in the Côte de Beaune: one might think of the plant growth of Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet. With their finesse and complexity, they can survive for decades. Chardonnay also achieves first class in some Blanc-de-Blancs champagnes. It additionally yields great wines in the Burgundian Chablis, and increasingly in Australia and Chile. A simple rule of thumb for pairing with food: When butter and cream are involved, you cannot go wrong with Chardonnay.
California: Lots of fruit and ripe tannins
Around 90 percent of the wine produced in the USA comes from California. The Napa Valley, situated roughly 100 kilometers north of San Francisco, is the most prominent wine region in the western hemisphere. California vintners first caused an international sensation with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, however, superior wines are also produced from Pinot Noir, Syrah and other varieties. California’s wine country shows more variety today than ever before.
USA - Yes, they can!
The United States is the third-largest nation on the planet in terms of both land area (after Russia and Canada) and population (after China and India). Every conceivable climate zone can be found in the US, from hot deserts to arctic frost. Thanks to immigration from all over the world, the US is probably the most multicultural country on the planet. Thus it has the ideal conditions for producing internationally recognized wine.