Thursday, September 17, 2009

2007 Estate Chardonnay from Far Niente

The majestic hills of Harlan Estate vineyards and since long time famous cru To-Kalon Vineyard surrounds the stone winery of Far Niente, situated on a wooded island in the middle of its great 80 hectares Stelling vineyard. Far Niente makes two wines only, a very good estate cabernet which in bottle evolves extraordinary well over at least 10-15 years, and this non malolactic chardonnay. For this wine, the grapes are not sourced in this Oakville vineyard, but from a much cooler vineyard in Coombsville in the southeastern corner of Napa Valley.
The Far Niente Chardonnay has a quite interesting connection with Sweden in the bestselling books written by author Jan Guillou about the undercover agent Hamilton of the Swedish navy. In several of the books, Hamilton drinks this wine and he is very sentimental about it since (I guess) it reminds him about his years in California when he was trained as a Navy Seal.

2007 Estate Chardonnay (Far Niente) / 91
It’s interesting how easy our impressions change depending on where and when and the competition. When I taste this wine in California, where my palate quickly calibrates to the California style of wines, I find it to be very elegant and almost burgundian like. Back in Sweden (or at least Europe) where most chardonnays are lighter and less oaky, I think of this wine as a rich and more Californian, and also with a spicier note of oak than I find when I taste it in California. This is so typical, not only for me – but for most tasters. And that’s part of the joy and great fun of tasting wines.
Poured at 12 degrees directly from the bottle, the nose is first almost closed with just small notes of sweet but not overly ripe tropical fruit. With air, the spicy oak shines through, but I have to admit that it is extremely very well integrated. Some of the sommeliers who tasted the wine blind with me (it was poured in a “Chardonnay from all over the world” blind tasting), first put their guesses in Europe, and even in Burgundy, or perhaps northern Italy. After a while, the tropical fruit notes were gone, and now the wine showed more classic and complex nuances. Guesses were back on Burgundy.
On the palate, it was at first quite closed and with a marked structure of the high non malolactic acidity, and the year in 60 percent new French oak was only down to a very fine and appealing bitterness and nutty aftertaste, and some spicy notes of cloves and nutmeg. The fruit is more on the cooler and fresher side, and the lack of burgundian minerality is compensated by the vital acidity and the overall elegance. It’s indeed a very good wine, and very classic to be Napa Valley. Drink it now and the coming 5-6 years.


  1. I usually prefer non oak aged, but i'm going to put this one on my radar.

  2. I'm also a believer in unoaked chardonnays, or at least lesser oaked ones (normally, oak adds a fine texture to the chardonnays, which unoaked wines seems to miss).
    I guess you've already found the unoaked wines you like, but still I'd like to recommend the Acero from Marimar Estate in Green Valley (Russian River Valley), and the trio of richer, riper but still more acidic wines from Diatom, the very successful unoaked project of Greg Brewer in Santa Rita Hills.