by Fred McMillin
for March 18, 1998
A Triple-A Chardonnay
Few wineries across the country can match the
Matanzas Creek record for producing
......Leading wine critic Robert Parker
The Matanzas Creek Chardonnay is one of the Top 100 Wines
released in 1995.
...The Wine Spectator
The Rest of the Story
Here's how this terrific Chardonnay came to be.
1974—After some difficulties with vinegrowing
on a north-facing Sonoma tract, Sandra McIver
found and bought a 116-acre dairy farm
1977—Merry Edwards is hired as the first
winemaker. It was decided to obtain a variety
of Chardonnay clones from U.C.(Davis).
1983—Vintages 1978 (the first) through 1981
receive strong critical acclaim, the '79 and '81
winning the Sweepstakes Award in major competitions.
1984—David Ramey replaces Merry as winemaker,
and added more dimensions to the Chardonnay,
using some French touches based on his experience
at the renowned Chateau Petrus. He introduces
aging on the lees (yeasty sediment), advocated
malolactic fermentation (reduces acidity and
adds complexity), and more.
1985—Bill Parker, with 10 years of Sonoma winery
experience, is hired as cellarmaster. Susan Reed,
with a strong science background, is hired as
1989—David leaves. Susan and Bill become
co-winemakers, so 50% of the winemakers' time
can be spent on research. Bill says, "We have
hundreds of bottled experiments that tell us
what works best in the vineyards and the cellar."
(My classes have loved the examples they've sent,
such as tasting the same wine, except one was
aged in new French oak, the other in French oak
that had been used previously for two years to
age an earlier wine...the class preferred the new,
but liked even more a blend of the two.)
1997—My large tasting includes the 1995 release
and it wins Best White. Those experiments
continue to pay off BIG.
1995 Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma Valley
Winemaking—100% malolactic fermentation, stirred
on the lees, 39% of the French oak used for
storage is new.
"Matanzas" is a Native American word meaning "to
destroy," which is what the winery does to much
of its competition.
||About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.
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