Monday, August 29, 2011

Chardonnays Not to Be Missed: The Wines of Jason Kesner!

The Kesner Chardonnays
It's no secret, California Chardonnay has gotten a bad rap in recent years. For good reason? Maybe, but much like fashion trends, tastes and style change over time.

Currently, more winemakers are eschewing the heavily-oaked, over manipulated style of this varietal and are creating wines using less artificial intervention, driven primarily by the composition and quality of the fruit. The Chardonnays from Kesner Wines beautifully illustrate this philosophy. Recently, I had the opportunity to taste this portfolio of wines featuring four fabulous Chardonnays that are refreshingly elegant and embody the delightful qualities one would hope to find in this often misunderstood varietal that just happens to be the primary ingredient in some of the finest white wines on the planet (i.e. Champagne, Grand Cru White Burgundy). 

Jason Kesner
Jason Kesner is the driving force behind Kesner Wines, which he founded in 2002 while managing Hudson Vineyards in Carneros. Kesner is a firm believer in having a strong foundation in the vineyard, "low impact farming, and low impact winemaking drive the wines." Upon release, Kesner's wines were very well received, with his inaugural Chardonnay garnering the distinction of The French Laundry's Most Recommended Chardonnay and has every year since. Kesner presently splits his time between his position as assistant winemaker at Kistler Vineyards and producing his eponymous wines which consist of four Chardonnays, a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and an Old Vines North Coast Grenache.

The first wine we tried was the 2008 Kesner "The Old Vines" Chardonnay, hailing from California's Napa Valley. This medium-bodied wine exhibited notes of butterscotch and citrus along with a bright acidity and was very well balanced. It also had a creamy mouthfeel indicative of its 16 months sur lie aging and was a lovely introduction to the flight.

Second, was the 2009 Kesner "Rockbreak" Sonoma County Chardonnay which had enticing aromas of floral and citrus. On the palate, flavors of crème brûlée and butterscotch comingled with lovely notes of spice imparted by the French oak (15% new). The spicy notes of the wine paired very well with a peppery arugula salad we were enjoying creating a lovely synergy between the two. This Chardonnay also had a fabulous minerality that carried through on the long, lingering finish.

Third was the 2009 Kesner "Sandrift" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay which had an alluring nose of shortbread that immediately called to mind a Lorna Doone cookie! These biscuity aromas intertwined with floral and citrus notes and made for a wine that embodied many qualities of a Champagne, minus the bubbles. This medium-full bodied wine was well-balanced and elegant with a lovely acidity and long finish.


The last Chardonnay of the flight was the 2009 Kesner "Alder Springs Vineyards" Chardonnay. This wine was slightly different than the previous three, exhibiting greener notes on the nose and was less aromatic. The fruit for this wine hails from Mendocino and was grown in a vineyard perched on a mountainside at 2400 feet in elevation. While perhaps less "ripe" than the previous offerings, this wine had an undeniable elegance and refined notes of citrus and flint.

Kesner also produces a Pinot Noir, the 2009 Kesner Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that was inky purple in color with blackberry, cherry and chocolate on the nose accompanied by a healthy dollop of earth and moss. On the palate, this pinot exhibited ample tannins, a food friendly acidity and structure that could even benefit from a few more years of bottle age. This wine definitely had my mouth watering for a roasted duck or an earthy mushroom risotto!

Kesner's wines are produced in very small quantities and may be difficult to find - never fear though! For information on purchasing, please contact Adriana Chinsky at Adriana@Adavino.com. These wines are definitely worth seeking out! Of course, if you happen to be dining at The French Laundry in the near future, you can always order a bottle there.

For you local readers who happen to be Chardonnay fans, our next installment of  "The Art of Wine & Food" series at the Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale, will take place Thursday, September 22nd and will feature "Chardonnays Around the World: from Audrey Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe, Learn How Various Winemaking Styles Exhibit Qualities of Old Hollywood Glamour!" We'd love to see you there! For more information, please contact Gail Vilone at 954-262-0249 or gvilone@moafl.org.

Cheers,


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