At the beginning of June I wrote a post in response to Pinotblogger Josh Hermsmeyer’s wine blogger contest. Basically, Josh challenged us to write about what motivates us to blog and if the role of a wine reviewer is to prescribe the ways in which a wine should be made or just write about what’s in the bottle. Had I not waited until the last moment to post my thoughts, or had seen Josh’s tweet about my lack of a wine review, I might have been in the running for the prize (yes, I’m one of the wine bloggers Josh calls out here). Ironically, the wine I would have chosen for that post would be from a winery right in Josh’s backyard in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, C. Donatiello Winery.
I was not familiar with C. Donatiello Winery before they tracked me down on Twitter and sent a couple samples. The winery is in the same building as the venerable Belvedere Winery which I remember from the 1980’s. Chris Donatiello is the owner and marketer while Webster Marquez, formerly of Williams Selyem, is the winemaker.
There seems to be two schools of California Chardonnay these days. On one hand you have the full malolactic “butter bombs” that are usually further marred by being over oaked. On the other, there is a growing trend of “naked” Chardonnay that celebrates the purity of fruit with the only wood contact being the cork (if they use a natural one at all). There are, of course, other approaches. Some iconoclasts subscribe to the Chablis or Burgundy model of partial or no ML and mostly neutral oak with extended lees contact. In my experience this last approach makes the most interesting California Chardonnay as I like my whites with lots of acidity so they pair well with food.
So that’s what makes this wine so interesting to me. Grown in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, this wine spent 9 months in 50% new and 50% neutral French oak. And it shows in the nice mouth weight and complexity of flavors. But unlike a lot of it’s full ML brethren, this Chardonnay still has enough acidity to clean the palate and pair with food. I’ve written here before that I don’t enjoy what ML usually does to Chardonnay and other white varieties but I can respect a craftman at work. Unlike some other wines I’ve reviewed, I really like this one a lot and will be seeking out several more bottles for my cellar.
C. Donatiello Winery, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley 2006 ($41/sample) – Medium straw in color with aromas of ripe pineapple, pear, almond and toast. Silky pear and green apple fruit with a nice rich mouthfeel and just a touch of caramel on the long finish. A delicious, pure expression of fruit enhanced by French oak.
Natural cork closure