WHAT: In the crowded field of California Chardonnays it is difficult for a winery to distinguish itself, but Landmark has been doing it for years. And while others have experimented with lighter, leaner styles Landmark has stayed with the rich, classic California Chardonnay style.
I do like the unoaked Chardonnay many wineries produce today, but I first fell in love with Chardonnay made in the buttery, oaky style. The Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay 2011 has plenty of the smooth, buttery style, but thankfully the oak is muted and doesn’t overpower.
The wine has aromas of honeysuckle, vanilla and honey with graceful flavors of citrus, nectarine and apple pie. It is a sensuous, seductive wine.
While single-vineyard wines still are popular, Landmark sees itself as the “negociant” of the California Chardonnay harvest, using the French term for the person who selects the best grapes from many vineyards to blend into a beautiful wine.
This vintage includes grapes from 21 vineyards, ranging from Sonoma in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. Some of the better known vineyards selected include Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, Bald Mountain in the Sonoma Valley and Lone Oak in the Russian River Valley.
Each vineyard lot is whole cluster pressed and after settling for a day is fermented in 100 percent French oak barrels with wild yeast.
With this vintage the winery has introduced a new hand-calligraphy label to reflect the hand-crafted nature of the wine. This is a reserve-style wine for which you might expect to pay much more. Serve it chilled but let it breathe a few minutes before drinking.
WINERY: Landmark Vineyards was founded in 1974 in Windsor, Calif., but moved in 1989 when urban sprawl was crowding the winery. It now is at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Sonoma Valley in a beautiful Spanish mission-style building.
The signature wine, the Overlook Chardonnay, has appeared in the Wine Spectator Top 100 seven times since 1997. Winemaker Eric Stern started collaborating with world-renowned consultant Helen Turley (who grew up in Augusta) in 1993, and the reputation of the winery took off.
Current winemaker Greg Stach has been making spectacular Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs for more than 10 years. They also produce single-vineyard Chardonnays, Grenache, Syrah and a GSM blend.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this wine with chicken pot pie, and it was a great comfort wine for comfort food. The smooth, easy-to-drink style blended with the creamy chicken, bringing smiles to our faces.
It also would go well with other poultry, seafood and even spicy Asian dishes. This is a great food wine.