PICK of the RACK: Joullian Vineyards | Chardonnay | Sleepy Hollow Vineyard | Santa Lucia Highlands | Monterey County | California | 2011 | $35 | 90 pts

SleepyHol11_405Aromas: pear; apple pie; butterscotch
Character: dry; fleshy & lush; vivid & crisp; racy acidity; moderate oak; 14.2% alcohol
Flavors: pear; Rainier Cherry; hazelnut; buttered biscuit; lemon zest; pinches of white pepper & cardamon
Food Pairing: medium sharp cheeses; roasted chicken; grilled fish; seared foie gras; wild mushroom dishes

During a visit to Monterey County a few years back, we happened upon Joullian Vineyards in Carmel Valley, a lesser-known American Viticultural Area (AVA) that stretches inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea through shimmering golden hills and undulating vineyards.  We were impressed by all of Joullian’s wines, which we sampled at their Old World-inspired tasting room in Carmel Valley Village and directly from barrel at the winery itself, located another 13 miles, or so, farther down the valley.  Since that trip we have enjoyed keeping in touch with winemaker Ridge Watson, who was instrumental in Joullian’s early stages of development — planting the vineyards in the early 1980s and building the winery in early 1990s — and who continues to direct Joullian’s production of Bordeaux varietials, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.

Ridge recently introduced us to Joullian’s 2011 Chardonnay he crafted from fruit sourced from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the famed Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, a cool-climate growing region due east and over the mountains from the winery in Carmel Valley.  Vineyards here are perched high upon the rim of the Santa Lucia mountain range on the western side of the Salinas Valley, which serves as a natural funnel for cool breezes and fog flowing in from Monterey Bay as well as an open window for bright morning sunshine.  These conditions foster slow, even ripening and keep fruit sugars and acidity in balance, resulting in harmonious, expressive wines.

This Chardonnay captures the essence of the Santa Lucia Highlands, offering aromatics of ripe pear, apple pie, and butterscotch that transition to flavors of pear, Rainier Cherry, hazelnut, and buttered biscuit, all complemented with notions of lemon zest, white pepper, and cardamom.   The wine also shows off its Burgundy-inspired upbringing; it was 100% barrel fermented and spent 10 months aging sur lie in French oak barrels.  It is a complex and balanced Chardonnay that is at once fleshy and lush, vivid and crisp.  Pair it with medium sharp cheeses, roasted chicken, grilled fish, seared foie gras, and wild mushroom dishes.

Joullian 2

Joullian Tasting Room

Availability:  Joullian produced only 374 cases of the 2011 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay, so distribution outside of California is limited.  For more information on where you might find the wine locally, how you may order it directly from the winery, or to peruse Joullian’s other bottlings, visit them virtually at www.joullian.com  And the next time you find yourself in Monterey County, we encourage you to visit Joullian’s tasting room in Carmel Valley Village or make an appointment to visit Ridge and his staff at the winery.

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