Rusack Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Chardonnay 2018
Long before Chardonnay was widely produced throughout the United States, a small band of vintners from Santa Maria were experimenting with this classic varietal. They discovered that Santa Maria’s long, cool growing season and maritime influences create Chardonnays of greater dimension. The 2018 Reserve reflects these qualities, and is tinged with the vibrant scents of ripe stone fruits, Meyer lemon, and orange zest.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
This cuvée, a special selection aged in 350L FranÇois Frères barrels, a one of a kind chardonnay from the late Jim Clendenen. Its lemon curd and pineapple flavors are girded by a sturdy oak frame, firm with plenty of leesy grip. This shows dramatic tension and freshness for a four-year-old wine, fine and focused, the lemony accents firmed up by a salty tang and majestic oak elements. For the cellar.
Aged ten months in French oak, this white sees 100% malolactic. We pick up a thread of caramel that weaves through a stony persona with just a whisper of oak. Medium-bodied, it blooms with a sensational mouthfeel.
Sourced from one of the most renowned vineyards in Santa Barbara County, this vital and vigorous, well defined Chardonnay gets our vote as the best of the very fine Rusack lot. While ripe, it is not over-reliant on ripeness, and it steers away from opulence while keying on deep, very lively, mineral-accented fruit that smacks of crisp green apples and key limes. Although it has the vitality of a wine that is certain to age comfortably for at least three or four years, it will make lovely drinking with creamy shellfish dishes tonight.
Rusack was established in 1995 by Geoff Rusack and Alison Wrigley Rusack with a commitment to creating world-class wines. In the years since then, this dedication to quality has meant some dramatic changes at the winery.
The most visible change is in the vineyard. Following the 2001 harvest, many of the original vines were pulled out and replanted under the guidance of winemaker John Falcone. Utilizing cutting edge technology and taking advantage of Ballard Canyon’s unique terroir, varieties to be grown were carefully chosen and limited to those clones best suited to the microclimate. Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc have been planted, along with smaller lots of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot to be blended into the renowned "Anacapa."
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Central Coast wines like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.