Sunday, June 6, 2010

La Carrière from Peter Michael Winery 2008-2005

The vineyards of Peter Michael Winery are among the most beautiful in California. The 225 hectare estate, of which 48.55 hectares are planted to vines, climbs from the Knights Valley floor in eastern Sonoma up on the mountain. At 300 to 400 meters, the white and red Bordeaux varieties are planted, and further up the mountain the Chardonnay vineyards are situated, from 500 to 600 meters above sea level. These are among the highest vineyards in California.
Some of the slopes, such as the La Carrière Vineyard, are as steep as 40 degrees (!), and the soil is composed of different volcanic materials which all adds a lovely and much so needed mineral note in the rich and ripe wines.
In many ways, this estate is unique. One of the most interesting aspects of it, is that just within some hundred meters you’ll find another soil type, altitude and/or exposure, hence the various personalities of the wines made here. This is, together with Diamond Creek Vineyards in Diamond Mountain further south in Napa Valley, the most impressive site of terroir in California.
La Carrière Vineyards is the steepest vineyard of the estate. It was planted in 1994 with Chardonnay of various Dijon Clones (60 percent), the fantastic Hyde selection (26 percent) and the See clone (14 percent). The beautiful vineyard stretches from 530 to almost 600 meters above sea level on a steep south facing slope with a dazzling white volcanic ash that makes it looks like the vineyards in Chablis, or even in Le Mesnil in Champagne. The soil may well have the same impact on the wines here in Knights Valley as in France, but the sunshine is for sure not French. These wines are true California chardonnays, rich and ripe, yet with a sense of finesse and classical winemaking.

2008 La Carrière / 93-94 p
La Carrière is always a 100 percent Chardonnay wine, fermented in brand new French oak barrels with the natural yeast, and after full malolactic fermentation and 11 to 12 months in the oak, the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. Alcohol level normally reaches 14.7 to 15.2 percent, in this vintage 15.2 percent, which has been absorbed pretty well by the ripe fruit, the silky body and the fine structure … it’s just in the finish where the warmth of the alcohol shines through. Color is pale straw, nose is slightly closed at first and it takes a few minutes and some aeration for the aromas to develop, then the youthful spicy oak find the balance with the ripe and concentrated but still quite elegant fruit. On the palate, the ripe fruit shows in a slightly sweet scented flavor, but the finish is completely dry thanks to the acidity and the tannins from the oak. I would keep this wine for another half year or year, or decant it one hour prior to serving it.
Drink it 2011-2016.

2007 La Carrière / 95-96 p
This is a great vintage, not only for this wine, but for most vineyards in California. Already when it was poured into the large glass, the lovely aromas filled the air. Color is still young and pale, the nose very elegant with a great flavor combination of the classic wine world and the new – cool climate fruit flavors meets the sunshine of California … yellow apples, pears, lemon peel, candid lemon, pineapple, as well as some spicy nutmeg flavor from the oak. Even though the alcohol reached 15.0 percent, balance is the word in this wine, which is one of the finest made from this vineyard up to date. When serving this wine, and other California chardonnays of this power and richness, it’s very important to serve it slightly chilled to keep the alcohol, spicy oak and sweet fruit in absolute balance, around 12 degrees Celsius is just perfect.
Drink it 2010-2017.

2006 La Carrière / 93-94 p
This vintage is absolutely great, and even if the 2008 and 2007 are as good or better, the 2006 drinks just perfect right now. As the other vintages in this tasting, the color is pale straw. I find the nose to be the mostly fine tuned and elegant of the four – which of course depends on a very good vintage and the fact that this wine at this stage has found a perfect balance between primary fruit and oak flavors and the elegance that comes with just some age. If I have been served this wine completely blind, I would have been in Bâtard-Montrachet for a while, just because this wine has that great fatness and texture as one finds in the greatest grand crus of Burgundy. However, the mineral notes are not as expressive in the 2006 La Carrière. Anyway, it is a lovely wine to drink over the next years.
Drink it 2010-2014.

2005 La Carrière / 92 p
Of the four, this is the fullest, ripest and the spiciest. Color is still young, pale straw with a slightly greenish rim. On the nose, the oak is quite spicy with notes of nutmeg. Still the oak is well balanced by the ripe but not too sweet fruit – notes of pears and apples as well as pineapple are intense but not overly heavy, so it is very well balanced and elegant. On the palate, it’s actually still young, rich with a slightly sweet scent of ripe fruit, but thanks to a good but not fresh acidity, a hint of mineral, and a spicy note from the brand new oak barrels, the structure is firm and elegant. It’s a very good wine – by itself it’s fantastic, but next to its more elegant neighboring vintages it’s not as outstanding.
Drink it 2010-2012.

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