2019 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alcohol per volume
Like its Pinot Noir counterpart, the 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay comes entirely from Riddle Vineyard in Occidental. We purchase all the Chardonnay (and most of the Pinot) Jim Riddle grows at his 10 acre site. In the past, it has always needed a few barrels of the other vineyards to present a complete wine. Here the combination of vine maturity and clonal selection have elevated this wine to nearly the same level as the single vineyard wines in this mailer. Planted 100% to the Wente clone, Riddle produces tiny berries full of citrus, mineral and white pepper notes. It also produces wines with enormous amounts of dry extract giving this wine a very broad but dense mouth feel. The dry finish comes up in the form of chalk and mint with a little white peach and honeysuckle creeping in to round out the finish.
2019 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
14.2% alcohol per volume
This wine showcases just how great the 2019 vintage was on the north coast. The aromatic pop, sweet entry and kaleidoscopic finish highlight the completeness of wines from this year. All the normal yellow fruits are here plus a salty, mineral flecked nuance that we have never seen before. Pear, almond and lemon confit define the palate as the wine starts to unwind toward a waxy richness. Just like last year, there’s the slightest hint of reduction in the wine which manifests as white chocolate and matchstick. The tiny berries from this impeccably farmed site though produce a white that has structure and grip and will definitely need a year or two to unwind in the cellar.
2019 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volume
This site is always a bit of a chameleon. It seems to shift to whatever the overarching vintage characteristic is in a given year. We’ve seen this wine go from fat to firm to almost Sauvignon Blanc in style during the racy year of 2014. The last few years however it appears to have finally developed its own personality. It contains all the best palate traits of the three other single vineyard Sonoma Coast wines in this release, the medium ripe tropical fruit notes of Purrington Rued, the sea spray of Thieriot and the honey tinged citrus of Platt. The nose is a touch reticent at first but with air turns to wet stones, lime blossom and gunpowder. Tightly coiled and inward leaning, the palate follows suit with more savory notes complemented by tangerine, honeysuckle and white peach. Going back and tasting the first few vintages of this wine also shows this might be the best aging site in the lineup.
2019 Rivers-Marie Purrington Rued Vineyard Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volume
You can talk about what wine is objectively best but that’s not always what you personally prefer or want to drink at a given time. For me, I can debate the merits of the various wines in this release but what I want to drink is the Purrington Rued. I love the uniqueness of this bottling, there’s nothing else that tastes like it. I’m still a little shocked we have the ability to source from this 50+ year old vineyard located in the heart of what’s known as Dutton Valley. There’s not much like this anywhere on the Sonoma Coast when you consider its age, location and farming pedigree. I keep wanting to call this tropical but that’s not quite right. If there is an exotic fruit note it’s candied, salted pineapple but there’s also dried white flowers, apricot, jasmine, fresh sage and orange blossom. Here the vine age contributes an incredible amount of palate weight without the slightest hint of heaviness.
2019 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volume
This was my favorite Chardonnay from tank right before bottling in December. I thought it was a tick above the Thieriot in aromatic complexity and palate depth but I was also impressed with how much better this bottling has gotten every year. This is our third year in this block of Platt and that sounds about right for figuring out how best to make it. I can’t really think of the actual tweaks we’ve made but whatever they are, they work with this 2019. If I had to guess, I’d attribute it to the vineyard and one additional botrytis removal pass right before harvest. This edition comes across as a little more focused than 2017 or 2018 with more fruit and acidity allowed to shine through the minimized honey top note. It’s immediately apparent on the nose which jumps from the glass with saline, spicy apple, freshly baked bread and mint. Even with all this natural acidity, the palate is broad and generous with ripe orchard fruit, smoke, sage, chamomile and dried flowers. This is giving so much right now but with this level of acidity and concentration, it should go for 7-10 years in the cellar.
2019 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
14.1% alcohol per volume
I’m not sure how much better this wine can get. We’ve been out here since 2007 and have seen this improve every year we’ve worked with it. The green/gold complexion as always is there suggesting a wine with a long life ahead of it. The site character has become very well defined on the palate: lemon zest, sea spray, brioche, white flowers, orchard fruit and citrus blossom. The completeness of the wine is hard to fathom sometimes. If California ever adopted a vineyard classification system, I have no doubt this site would be in the top tier for Chardonnay.