Exploring Chardonnay at Edna Valley Vineyards

Edna Valley Vineyards Chardonnay

The Sunset Savor the Central Coast showcases the wines and cuisines of the California Central Coast. I was able to attend and discover that what makes the event extra special are the Adventure Tours that take place over the days before the main weekend event. These Adventure Tours include a variety of activities, from visiting an abalone farm to blending your own garden with peace and spice to planting your own vine in Cambria.

One of my favorite adventures at this event was a comprehensive tour of Edna Valley Vineyards called Chardonnay from Grape to Glass with Edna Valley Vineyards. At this event, I received an in-depth study of Chardonnay.  The tour included a vineyard and winery tour, a tasting and pairing, plus lunch from Thomas Hills Organics.

Edna Valley Vineyards

Edna Valley Vineyards is located in Edna Valley AVA, a part of San Luis Obispo surrounded by the picturesque Seven Sisters volcanoes. While the Niven Family originally owned the Vineyard. Gallo Wines was looking for a presence in the Central Coast, making Edna Valley Vineyards a perfect location to situate. The winery specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The area is ideal because of its cool mornings and cool nights.

We were lucky to have Enologist, Matt Gaudinier as our guide during our visit. The adventure tour started with a taste of 2012 Paragon Chardonnay, with its tropical fruit notes, and a wonderful, festive start to our experience. The wine aged for six months in French oak in 33% new oak, and displayed the perfect amount of acidity to compliment the fruity aromas.

Before walking out to the vineyards, Matt described the several types of trellising used for the vines and a fascinating description of why different wineries utilize each design. For example, the Lyre is a U-shaped“U” system where the grapes are trained on a spur, allowing for good air circulation and sunlight. The Geneva Double Curtain is a trellis system used in colder areas to protect against frost. The other system is the California Sprawl, used more often in new-world grape-growing regions.

Edna Valley Vineyards
Edna Valley Vineyards

Testing the Grapes

Harvest is always the best time to learn about the vineyard process. Seeing the grapes in person and, tasting them directly off the vine teaches the layperson to recognize when the grapes are ripe, how the winemaker determines when the grapes have the maximum Brix (sugar content) for picking, and how the seeds should look at the time the grapes are ripe. This was all part of our education on the Edna Valley wine tour, and as a wine connoisseur, I found it fascinating.

Enologist Matt Gaudinier
Enologist Matt Gaudinier testing the Brix

Using a special apparatus (pictured above) to measure the sugar levels enables winemakers to see the Brix level. On this particular day at Edna Valley Vineyards, the Brix was at approximately 23, and since picking commences at 24.5, Matt anticipated that the grapes would be harvested in a week or so.

The color of the grape is quite essential to the final wine product. When the grape shows evidence of being more yellow-brown, the wine is more likely to deliver flavors of tropical fruits, like the vintage we tasted at this event.

Chardonnay Grapes
Chardonnay Grapes

Tasting Chardonnay

While in the vineyards, we tasted the 2012 Central Coast Chardonnay. The wine was creamier, again with hints of tropical fruits. The chardonnay aged six months in French oak with 33% in new oak and 33% receiving malolactic fermentation, giving the wine its signature green apple flavors.

After our walk through the vineyards, we barrel-tasted the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. The wine had been in the barrel for about one year and displayed hints of pineapple. The reserve Chardonnay aged 18 months on the lees in French oak with 65% in new oak.

Barrel Sampling Chardonnay
Barrel Sampling Chardonnay

Dynamics Food and Wine Pairing

Next on our agenda was a food and wine dynamics pairing with Edna Valley Chardonnays and Scallops prepared by Catering Chef Ryan Sims of Thomas Hills Organics. One can never go wrong with Thomas Hill Organics from Paso Robles.

The food is simply superb. The Chardonnay pairing consisted of four different preparations of scallops paired with four Chardonnays. The scallops were cooked to perfection and tender to the palate. The first was a Seared Scallop with Champagne Buerre Blanc, which paired with the Edna Valley Vineyards 2011 Fleur de Edna. The wine was bright and crisp with 6 – 8 months of aging in neutral oak and no malolactic fermentation. This wine was my clear favorite.

Returning to the Paragon Chardonnay, we sampled the 2011 paired with a Seared Scallop with Romesco, a red pepper sauce. Next came the 2011 Heritage Chardonnay, aged 14 months in 35% new oak. Pairing the Heritage with a Seared Scallop with Curry Sauce was a nice complement.

Finally, we tasted the 2011 Reserve Chardonnay with a Scallop Ceviche that had lots of bite. I particularly liked the Scallop Ceviche and the one with Romesco. I preferred these scallop selections with the Fleur de Edna and the Paragon. This shows that everyone’s palate is different and what may be an ideal pairing for one person can be quite different for another.

Thomas Hill Organics Scallops
Thomas Hill Organics Scallops

Edna Valley Luncheon

At lunch, they served a beautiful bouillabaisse with several kinds of fish. What stood out to me was the halibut. It melted in my mouth with a perfect tenderness. With lunch, we broke away from Chardonnay; instead, we enjoyed a lovely, balanced Winemaker Series Pinot Noir.

Bouillabaisse at Edna Valley Vineyards

As a writer who must taste everything wineries could offer, I insisted on sampling other varietals and more reds before leaving. The wine that caught my attention was the 2011 Winemaker Series Meritage with 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, and 14 Petit Verdot. This wine was big and bold with an earthy quality and hints of lavender, making for a smooth finish.

Alas, the event had to come to an end sometime. I find a comprehensive tour is always well received at a larger winery, and Edna Valley Vineyards certainly proved this true at Chardonnay From Grape To Glass.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted winetasting and luncheon. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.