Clos du Bois 2009 Chardonnay ‘Calcaire’ (Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California)
Price Point: $25
Varietal(s): 100% Chardonnay
My Rating: 13 (1-20 scale)
Thirty years ago, when Clos du Bois was a small family owned operation located in the heart of Healdsburg, the drinking age was still 18, and I was just opening my eyes to the wondrous world of wine, it was this wine, Calcaire, and it deceased sister, Flintwood, who I still mourn, both from the age when intense butter-bombs were appreciated and revered, that not only taught me what malolactic fermentation REALLY was, but firmly cemented me as a Califoniaphile. These two wines, along with Clos’ Merlot, Seghesio Zinfandel and La Crema Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were my introductions to the wine world three decades back. When I found this bottle on the stores of one of my favorite wine shops here in Rhode Island, I was tickled at the idea of travelling back in time. Of course, it’s true, you really can’t go home again.
The aromas I found (while the wine was cold) were intense green apple, vanilla & baking spices. As the wine warmed, it opened up with lovely lemony, pear and toasted oak scents. The color was a deep, golden straw and the texture was medium bodied, yet heavy for a white, with what appeared to be “gorgeous gams” (by “gams” I refer to the legs of the wine on the glass*). After my second glass this turned into the perfect wine to swirl around to a spacey random screensaver while listening to some Damien Rice. The flavors, similar to the aromas, light citrus, apple, pear, vanilla, and buttered lightly burnt toast (a hint of the medium to heavy toast put on the barrels), are all wrapped up in a luscious malolactic creamy envelope and topped off with nice acidity. The flaw is in the alcohol. It is the one flaw in this baby. I like my Chard’s ready to travel. I don’t have a fridge on the third floor where I sit and type this. If my Chardonnay gets warm, I don’t need it to make me sneeze. My third glass was like drinking a Kitty D. special. At an almost chilly 63 degrees room temp, it became almost undrinkable … focus on the almost. So yes, this is a nice bottle of wine. Definitely needs food. Unlike a true butter-bomb, serve chilled. I should have waited to have it with dinner, but I’m not known for my patience.
*Legs, or to some, tears, are nothing more than a measure of the alcohol, or in wine’s case, ethanol, found in each glass. The physical properties behind are referred to as the Gibbs_Marangoni effect. I could sputter on about the chemical weight of water vs. ethanol, yada yada, so let’s not. Let’s just say that the legs or tears of a wine are a measure of its alcohol content and nothing more. The heavier the legs, the higher the alcohol. If you want to amaze your friends with a neat trick, place a playing card over the opening of the glass. Without oxygen, the legs will stop falling. Remove the card, they will begin again.
**Chardonnay is undoubtedly the noblest white grape in the world. It can produce the greatest variety of wines in the greatest variety of areas. DNA profiling has concluded that Chardonnay is a cross between the notoriously unstable Pinot Noir and an ancient, and now almost extinct, variety called Gouais Blanc. Burgundy, France is the location Chardonnay’s birthplace, and few dispute that claim. Chardonnay is fairly low in character, meaning that it is not terribly impressive on its own, or vastly distinguishable from other white grape varieties you would find in a mass produced white blend. Much of what determines the personality of a Chardonnay is what the winemaker does to the grapes. Using oak to ferment and/or age the wine produces vanilla flavors, while adding richness. Leaving the wine on the spent yeast cells, or lees, adds complexity and a toasty note. Conducting malolactic fermentation (turning the harsher malic or apple acids in the wine to softer lactic or milk acids) reduces the overall acidity and produces a softer, creamier wine. None of this is derived from the grapes themselves but from the hand of the winemaker. Chardonnay is hardy and versatile and can grow successfully in all but the most extreme wine regions around the world. It can make great — though somewhat different — wines almost anywhere it’s able to be grown. Cool climate Chardonnays tend toward a dry crispness and clean fruit flavors. Warmer climate Chardonnays lean toward richer honey and butterscotch flavors. In Burgundy, Chardonnay goes into ALL the region’s white wines. It’s one of the three grapes — along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier — allowed in Champagne and the only grape in blanc de blancs. Chardonnay is everywhere. Chardonnay is particularly compatible with oak, and many wine producers have been criticized in recent years for over-oaking their Chardonnays. Since then, a series of unoaked Chardonnays have entered the arena and are gaining momentum, Newton’s Unoaked Chardonnay from California comes to mind. Traditionally, famed unoaked styles have come from northern Italy, Chablis, and Burgundy’s Mâconnais district. Chardonnay’s versatility is the main reason why it has become one of the most recognized wines in the world. You can expect a tremendous variety of flavors, medium to high acidity, medium to full body, and minimal fruit to tropical fruit. And you can count on a wine that’s never going to surprise you with sweetness.
**The last paragraph on Chardonnay was taken from a work of Peter Alig to which I made editorial updates and changes.