Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2009, Napa Valley

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COST: $59-61

WHAT: When a wine really captures the essence of the place where the grapes were grown, the grower and winemaker have done their jobs. That’s what you get with a bottle of the 2009 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay.

You pay extra for the experience, and this clearly isn’t an everyday wine. But when you want a special treat or have a special dinner lined up, you should reach for this wine.

The rich wine starts with aromas of melon and honeysuckle, then as it opens in the glass starts to smell like an apple pie with spices and vanilla. Pear, melon and fig are the dominant flavors with brown sugar and butterscotch. The wine is creamy with a balanced acidity.

This is a very nice, complex wine that is good for sipping or for pairing with rich food. It’s best served cold. I would take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to be released.

WINERY: Co-founders Su Hua and Peter Newton believed grapes grown at high elevations had better quality and richer flavors, so in 1977 they bought one square mile on Napa’s Spring Mountain. They were pioneers in what is now considered one of the prime viticultural areas in the world. Spring Mountain wines are known for their high quality.

The terraced hillside has grapes growing at elevations ranging from 500 feet to 1,600 feet. The vineyard plots are scattered through naturally forested areas. The Newtons also built the winery to minimize the handling of the fruit, allowing gravity flow systems to ferment grapes in separate batches. Their aging caves have been dug into the hillside to take advantage of the natural underground coolness.

At the beautiful winery overlooking Napa Valley there is a red British telephone booth as a nod to Peter Newton’s birthplace. A pagoda, a red Chinese gate and other Asian artifacts reflect the culture of Su Hua Newton.

The philosophy of letting nature take care of the wines is reflected in the natural yeasts used in fermentation and the unfiltered style of the wine.

“We believe (a natural approach) results in a more natural, more satisfying wine,” winemaker Chris Millard said. “The purity of our Napa Valley fruit and the incredible diversity of our vineyards enable us to source beautiful wines, but ultimately our challenge is to preserve the purest expression of our terroir through the winemaking process.”

The Newtons have 112 parcels of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Malbec. Besides the Chardonnay, they bottle Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Claret.

GOES WITH: To celebrate the return of my prodigal son, we had a feast of Alaskan King Crab legs. What a great food to have with this spectacular wine. The crisp acidity of the wine cut through the butter from the crab legs and matched the lemon juice we sprinkled on the crab.

This would go well with rich foods, such as lobster bisque, grilled fish (swordfish comes to mind) and pasta in a cream sauce.

WINE EVENTS

AUG. 2
Wine and tapas tasting,
5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas; $19.99; (706) 722-4805

AUG. 3
Wine and beer tasting,
4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses; $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of one of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

AUG. 4
Wine and beer tasting,
2-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

AUG. 16
Wine tasting,
5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses; $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of one of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

AUG. 22
Wine dinner,
6:30-9 p.m., Calvert’s 475 Highland Ave.; wines of Hearst Ranch; cost TBA; reservations, (706) 724-1442


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