ChardonnaySmall but growing, the Chardonnay program includes two single vineyard designates (B. Thieriot & Joy Road) and a Sonoma Coast appellation bottling.
Anchored by the B. Thieriot Vineyard (2007) in Occidental, the Chardonnay program has grown to include Joy Road Vineyard (SVD,2013) & Sonoma Coast (AVA, Riddle Vineyard & Lucky Well Vineyard).
2017 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alcohol per volume
'Orchard fruit, crème brûlée, butter, tangerine and yellow flowers all develop in a deeply-layered, resonant, utterly gorgeous Chardonnay.' - 93 pts, Antonio GalloniThis version of the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay contains pieces of all of the single vineyard wines plus Riddle Vineyard as its base. The racy character of the wine gives you an insight into the overall vintage character on the coast. Here the expression specifically is wet stones, lime blossom, green apple and a touch of honeysuckle on the finish. The wine is focused, pure and precise. With 0% new oak and no lees stirring, there’s nothing to get in the way of the fruit. The vintage helps make this our most successful appellation Chardonnay to date but also severely limited quantity. We expect this to go fast.
2017 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
13.6% alcohol per volume
'The 2017 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard bristles with tension, nuance and brilliance. Lemon confit, tangerine, white flowers, mint and almond are beautifully delineated and vibrant.' - 93 pts, Antonio Galloni
It’s nice to see this stand out from the pack, mostly because it should. Our winemaking style has always produced site driven wines first and here we get a small assist from the vintage to complete the delineation. This might be the one bottling that has a little more give than its previous vintage version. It is once again yellow fruit focused with additional notes of hazelnut, white peach, guava and chamomile. A little bit of white chocolate emerges on the finish to give more roundness to the wine.
2017 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
13.5% alcohol per volume
'Apricot, peach, yellow flowers, chamomile and lightly honeyed notes' - 92 pts, Antonio GalloniWe love the uniqueness of the wines from this Terry Adams owned site in Occidental. No two vintages have been the same in our brief history here. This wine strikes a middle ground stylistically compared to previous years. It is not quite as fat and viscous as the 2015 or lean and flinty as the 2016. It also possesses a little more varietal character than those two previous vintages. There’s a chalkiness that is distinctly Chardonnay but not necessarily California Chardonnay. It is more Chablis like in its racy finish and smoke and beeswax palate notes. The focus of the overall wine is what I keep coming back to though, there’s a precision here that Joy Road has never possessed before.
2017 Rivers-Marie Purrington Rued Vineyard Chardonnay
12.8% alcohol per volume
'White flowers, mint, passionfruit and orchard fruit notes are all laced throughout this arrestingly beautiful Chardonnay.' - 95 pts, Antonio GalloniWe are incredibly excited to add this site to the line up. When Ulises Valdez first showed us this newly leased piece, we thought we’d grab some for our Sonoma Coast bottling. After fermentation and a small dig into the history of the site, we knew this four barrel lot was destined for vineyard designation. Planted in 1969, the vine age is immediately apparent on the palate of the wine. There’s impact but it is subtle. At 50 years old, the wine is now more about the site than the clone. Rued clone Chardonnays are usually more tropical than this but here the expression is unique to the wine’s location. Apricots, almonds, nectarine, brioche and tangerines dominate a palate that at times takes an almost Alsatian turn in character. Like the other wines in the line up, there’s no mistaking this for any other site once you have some experience with it. Unfortunately the four barrel won't go far but we hope to make a little more in the future (2018 is a whopping 6 barrels) and keep this around as a permanent part of the line up.
2017 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Chardonnay
14.1% alcohol per volume
'Orange peel, mint, chamomile, dried flowers and buttery notes infuse this sumptuous, oily Chardonnay.' - 94 pts, Antonio GalloniWhereas Purrington Rued was a bit of an unknown to us, we knew to expect great things from Platt. After a less than stellar 2016, we now feel that we have captured all the greatness of this site. Perched near the top of the range in Freestone, this 1.5 acre block of Wente clone Chardonnay came in just above 2.5 tons an acre in 2017. The initial pressed pH of 3 is the lowest we have ever seen at Rivers-Marie. This site is cooler than even Thieriot and that comes through in the character of the wine from its initial, bracing acidity to the long lemon oil dominated finish. Sandwiched in between this are notes of poached pear, honeysuckle, white pepper, white peach and pineapple. There’s a mild honeyed note that arches over the wine due to a little botrytis in 2017. The acidity is what you always come back to though, focusing the wine and prolonging the finish for a minute plus
2017 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volumeThis special site right across the street from Summa proves more interesting to us every year even as we begin to run out of original things to say about it. We’d attribute that to better farming but also to vine age. Planted in 1990, we have begun to see “old vines” qualities come out in this wine the last several years. Consistency is probably the most valued attribute as this vineyard has weathered the droughts, deluges and heat of the last several years. Through it all, the wines produced from here continue to show site character first and vintage character second. There is an amazing palate presence in this wine but it never comes across as taxing. Freshness is probably the first thing we look for in our Pinots and Chardonnays and this wine always has that mouthwatering acidity that keeps the wine lively. The Thieriot has a crushed rock minerality that separates it from all the other wines in the line up. Its proximity to the coast also provides saline and oyster shell notes that are more aligned with grand cru Chablis than California Chardonnay. The complexity here increases every year and we are thankful that this special site has been the cornerstone of the Rivers-Marie Chardonnay program now for over 10 years.
2016 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alcohol per volume
The big difference between this vintage and previous offerings is the distinctive character of the Platt Vineyard. It adds a muscat-y exotic quality that probably has as much to do with the vintage as it does the site. All three vineyards in the blend are Wente clone but they couldn’t be more different. The Riddle Vineyard fruit adds a stony minerality to the more tropical tinged Lucky Well and the slightly foxy, tea scented Platt. A tough combination to knit together but here it works. The wine is heavily stone fruited on the palate with a tiny bit of reduction on the end adding gunpowder and white chocolate. As it sits open, it actually tightens up a bit, a good sign for future development.
2016 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
13.8% alcohol per volume
We are as excited about this first Chardonnay version of Bearwallow as we were its Pinot sibling last year. Not knowing what Anderson Valley Chardonnay was supposed to taste like only added to the intrigue as harvest 2016 approached. Coming from a sub-selection of the Wente clone, we had never seen such small berries. The resulting wine is very yellow fruit focused, following through with lemon oil, flint, apricot and pineapple. There’s a touch of brioche on the finish from the oak. As with all the other offerings, we do no lees stirring so the fruit here is precise and polished by acidity. If this is what Anderson Valley Chardonnay tastes like, we look forward to a very bright future.
2016 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
14.1% alcohol per volumeThis starts out with an almost Sauvignon Blanc-like flintiness. Most of the character of the wine currently centers around texture. Unlike last year, this wine holds plenty in reserve with a bright, green fruited mid palate and firm acidity from start to finish. This has proven to be an interesting vineyard for us in the sense that no two vintages have tasted the same. Granted the sample size isn’t huge, but it has been an interesting ride from a winemaking perspective watching and waiting to see what comes of each year. We are a big fan of this year due to its raciness and lean, slightly reductive coastal character.
2016 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
14.2% alcohol per volumeIt is nice to return to a normal quantity of this wine not only so we have something to sell but also so we have some to drink. This special site right across the street from Summa proves more interesting to us every year. We’d attribute that to better farming but also to vine age. Planted in 1990, we have begun to see “old vines” qualities come out in this wine the last several years. Consistency is probably the most valued attribute as this vineyard has weathered the droughts, deluges and heat of the last 5 years. Through it all, the wines produced from here continue to show site character first and vintage character second. The other quality we enjoy is one we mention frequently when talking about the Summa Old Vines bottling, weightiness without heaviness. There is an amazing palate presence in this wine but it never comes across as taxing. Freshness is probably the first thing we look for in our Pinots and Chardonnays and this wine always has that mouthwatering acidity that allows for multiple sips (or glasses or bottles). Given the proximity to the ocean, the Thieriot has a flavor note we refer to as sea spray complemented by citrus oil, crushed rock, honeysuckle and nectarine.
2015 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alcohol per volumeThis is something new for us, a partial malo Chardonnay. Given the inherent richness of the vintage in warmer sites, we decided to block secondary fermentation in a few barrels of Lucky Well and Riddle Vineyard Chardonnays and we really liked the result. The wine has none of the apple-y character associated with full malo blocked whites but instead treads some kind of middle ground between flintiness and reserved tropical and citrus fruit notes. There are little pieces of Joy Road and Thieriot in here too that definitely help with complexity. A small, waxy, lanolin note creeps up in the end framed by lemon peel and a little fruit sweetness contributed by the vintage. This version is dense, more 2013 than 2014, with a completeness that hints at how successful all of our Chardonnay sites were in 2015.
2015 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
14.1% alcohol per volumeThe inherent bigness of the vintage is on full display in this wine. This wine is far more viscous than the Sonoma Coast bottling and also quite a bit longer. It is a firm wine for a white with a little complimentary reduction on the nose and a palate feel that actually has a little grip on the back end. The fruit profile of the site remains more citrus than tropical so it’s the palate weight that hints at the concentration. We did use a little new oak on this wine but it is completely covered by the fruit impact. Hazelnut and brioche notes help fill out the flavor profile to give some cut to the fruit concentrate quality of the vintage. This vineyard always holds a little in reserve so I think like in previous years, the wine will show better at 3-5 years than it will at release.
2015 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
% alcohol per volumeEvery few years there is a wine we debate about keeping and drinking all of it ourselves. For 2015, it is the Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine possesses all the characteristics we love about both domestic and French Chardonnays. There is mineral, white chocolate, citrus peel, gunpowder, a hint of tropical fruit, roasted nuts, brioche and a touch of salinity. The wine is remarkably consistent from aromatics to finish but it does broaden and concentrate as the experience unfolds. The completeness is really what makes it stand out. Like the Summa Old Vines bottling, I think vine age has something to do with the specialness of this wine every year. We make a lot of wines for a lot of people but I’d be hard pressed to find a three vintage vertical of any wine I have ever made that I like as much as 2013-2015 B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay.
2014 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alcohol per volume
Made up of Wente clone from the Lucky Well Vineyard and Riddle Ranch, the green-gold complexion is the first sign of the healthiest of the fruit in 2014. The aromatics are focused on classic Chardonnay notes of lychee, hazelnuts, and smoke. Like all the wines, there’s great concentration without overt heaviness. The palate turns more soil driven featuring chalk and gunflint complemented by the full spectrum of citrus fruits.
2014 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
13.8% alcohol per volume
We continue to be pleased with this fruit from Terry Adams’ small Occidental plot. At only a third of an acre but very tightly spaced the dense canopy allows for true ripening of the fruit given the low per plant crop load and some shading from neighboring rows. All the acidity possible is preserved at harvest time and that’s the first sensation that greets you on the palate. Green/gold in complexion, the nose is always very effusive showing notes of brioche from the oak and some varietal character of cut hay, white chocolate and tart citrus fruit. This wine we feel always holds more of its potential in reserve so the palate is subtle. The acidity that makes this vintage so great frames the finish and will also allow this wine to age gracefully for some time.
2014 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
14.2% alcohol per volume
This is more green/gold than the pure gold complexion of the 2013. We always feel this is a good indicator of preserved potential in Chardonnay. This edition doesn’t have the initial palate impact of the 2013 but the trade off here is more cut and delineation of both flavors and aromatics. Nothing here is muddled and the palate builds from the front to a swelling of citrus and mineral notes in the back. This wine also has that weight minus heaviness that we mentioned last year. It begs for an additional taste but those tastes don’t tire the palate. The finish might be the most interesting element of the wine where the fruit moves into a stone fruit area framed by all the racy acidity of the vintage.
2013 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.0% alcohol per volume
It’s odd to say but ultimately the greatness of this vintage might be best defined by the Chardonnays it produced. This is our “starter” white but it certainly doesn’t taste that way. Comprised of Lucky Well, Martinelli Road and declassified Thieriot Vineyard barrels, it’s a very clean, laser focused example showcasing what Sonoma Coast does best. The lack of weather drama in 2013 produced clean fruit that allowed primary fermentations to complete in record time. The bone dryness complements the smoke, hazelnut and marzipan palate well. The complexity continues with notes of citrus skin, minerals, saline and a little white chocolate. The 10% new oak and no lees stirring allows the brilliance of the fruit in this vintage to shine through in the finished wine.
2013 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Chardonnay
13.8% alcohol per volume
The Chardonnay program for us continues to expand. We started with this small piece owned by Terry Adams in 2012 and we wanted a year to work with it before breaking it out on its own. This wine has more cut then any wine we have ever released. Green/gold in color with a super effusive nose, the fruit here is far more citrus than tropical. The palate is piercing with notes of cut hay, white chocolate, lychee and lime zest. This one may take a little while to come around but the laser focus and freshness of the palate makes it intriguing now.
2013 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
14.2% alcohol per volume
This is a little more golden than its Joy Road sibling but features the same purity of flavor and focus. One of the trademarks of this vineyard we’ve discovered through the years is its ability to produce weighty wines that aren’t heavy. We make the same comment about the Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir offering every year and so we partly attribute this in the Thieriot to vine age as well. Though this would never be confused with a more heavy style of California Chardonnay, it is a bit more classic in character than the Joy Road bottling. This is more about generosity and features elements of brioche, hazelnuts, smoke and marzipan complemented by a bit of citrus zest. This is already a broad, deep wine but I imagine it will only continue to add dimension as it ages. This is one of those wines you debate selling wondering if you’d be better served to hoard and drink it all yourself.
2012 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.8% alcohol per volume
The Chardonnay program is finally expanding. In 2012, we sought out a few new sites around the Occidental area to try out and to act as a hedge against the extreme weather we had experienced the last several years at Thieriot. From those efforts, two most promising new sites make up this first ever Sonoma Coast appellation offering, Joy Road Vineyard and Lucky Well Vineyard.
Joy Road is owned by Terry Adams (a Chardonnay legend himself) and sits only about a half mile from our estate Summa site. It’s a tiny plot, very densely planted and meticulously maintained. Given the cool site, it’s all about cut and tension featuring high toned citrus notes, fruit zest and a nice stony minerality.
Our block at Ulises Valdez’s Lucky Well site is planted to an old Wente clone. Like Joy Road, location here is what contributes most to the finished attributes of the wine. It’s a bit warmer so the wine features rounder, more generous fruit notes. The fruit spectrum is still more citrus then tropical but notes of brioche, fresh cream and pear creep in at the end to provide richness. The combination of the two sites works well in the finished blend offering a wine to drink now and a nice QPR companion to the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir bottling.
2012 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
13.8% alcohol per volume
Vintages like this confirm why we love this vineyard and reaffirm our decision to make it the flagship of our Chardonnay program. 2012 was the first year we were able to call the pick when we thought the vineyard was truly ready instead of having our hand forced by inclement weather. Because of this we brought in the cleanest, healthiest looking fruit we had ever seen from this site. The normal bracing acid is here but there’s a completeness to this wine at a much earlier stage than we’ve ever experienced before.Being a huge white Burgundy fan, I’ve always marveled at how those wines balance delineation with a pleasing roundness that makes the wines so complex and versatile. This is the first year we feel we have achieved something close to that. We press direct to barrel, both primary and malolactic fermentations are 100% native, the barrels aren’t stirred and the wine sees no sulfur until after it completes secondary fermentation. The winemaking hasn’t changed, so we are happy to give the credit to the vineyard and vintage.
2011 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
14.2% alcohol per volume
This once again was the last thing we harvested for the vintage. Given the weather it required more sorting than we had ever done before. We probably culled out 15% of the pick for botrytis concerns. The palate though shows that we couldn’t get it all out. There’s a honeyed character to the wine that we’ve tasted in some higher end white Burgundies that we like. It’s a nice balance to the 3.2 finished pH the wine possesses. This is the only 2011 that is actually denser than its 2010 version. That wine needs a ton of time still where the ’11 seems pretty open knit now. It is citrus fruit focused as always but with a little more brioche and hazelnut than years past. We cut back once again on the new wood component to allow more vineyard expression in this wine.
2010 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
13.4% alcohol per volume
Of course the year we double the vine acreage we buy yields are tiny. This was our last piece to harvest in 2010 and until the heat in late September hit, we weren’t so sure it was going to come in. Pressing out at 3.14 pH and 10 grams of acidity it’s a bit of an understatement to say the wine has nice cut. As touched on previously, we feel we do a better job of making this wine every year. This might be the first year where all the potential we saw in the raw material is realized in the finished product. Once again we treated every barrel as an individual wine carefully monitoring both primary and malo completion in every lot. As in the past, there was no inoculation for either fermentation and no lees stirring. For the first time we bottled this wine at the same time as the Pinots to capture as much freshness and primary character as we could. The nose on this wine is more expressive currently than any of the Pinots. It’s heavy on hazelnuts, lemon meringue, lime/lemon zest, lanolin, brioche and white chocolate. Now that we are four years in it’s hard to find original things to say about this site/wine but I can say without reservation it’s a wine we love to drink.
2009 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volume
Some day we will make more of this. Once again we’ve bottled 5 barrels of Chardonnay and given the following, we expect it to go quickly. Like the 2007 and 2008, it’s the cut in this wine that we like the most. There’s plenty of richness to go around but the acid spine is what sets the wine apart from most other California Chardonnays. The notes across the three vintages are similar: lanolin, lemon meringue, lime blossom, hazelnuts and a hint of white chocolate on the finish. This might be the most accessible of the three vintages given our gradual reduction in the percentage of new oak. Regardless we like the precision the acid lends to the wine now knowing it will only improve and broaden over time.
2008 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
13.5% alcohol per volume
Without talking overall quality, we simply did a better job of making this wine in 2008. The raw material and potential quality of the two vintages was very similar. Though instead of treating the 2008 as one lot, we monitored every barrel as individual wines to make sure we could track fermentation completion as it happened. In hindsight I believe our lack of this approach for the 2007 allowed too much of that wine to sit unsulfured for way too long. The 2008 has a strong acid spine and features a more green-gold color and a freshness to the palate that the 2007 is missing. Otherwise the notes are very similar between the two vintages: lime blossoms, Meyer lemon, wet stones, lightly toasted hazelnuts and a hint of white chocolate at the end. There is more persistence to the finish of this wine than any other wine we’ve ever made. The 2007 seemed like a wine that would require patience, the 2008 definitely will.
2007 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
13.9% alcohol per volume
3.18 finished pH. I keep writing that down to become more comfortable with it. We can’t say this is a dead ringer for white Burgundy but we’ve heard the comparisons from the dozen or so folks who’ve tasted it. It has liquid mineral, honeyed, lime zest, brioche and white chocolate qualities that suggest it might not be from California until the power of the wine takes over in the finish. The nose can go from fully open to reticent very quickly suggesting it will need some time in bottle to settle down. It was fermented in 100% new wood to tame the acidity and it is barely evident in the wine. The wine was finished in stainless for 2 months after 10 months in oak and bottled without fining or filtration. Because of the pH, malo did not finish until August of last year so the wine was allowed extra time to development as a complete wine compared to the Pinots. We are extremely excited to be making Chardonnay from this illustrious vineyard located directly across the street from Summa.