Exploring Chardonnay at Edna Valley Vineyards

Edna Valley Vineyards Chardonnay

Sunset Savor the Central Coast brings together and showcases the wines and cuisines of the California Central Coast. What makes the event extra special are the Adventure Tours that take place over the days prior to the main weekend event. The 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 adventure was a comprehensive tour of Edna Valley Vineyards called Chardonnay from Grape to Glass with Edna Valley Vineyards. At this event, one received an in-depth study of Chardonnay.  The tour included a vineyard and winery tour, 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. 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 with its cool mornings and cool nights.

Enologist Matt Gaudinier was our guide. The adventure tour started with a taste of 2012 Paragon Chardonnay with its notes of tropical fruit. The wine displayed the perfect amount of acidity and aged six months in French oak, which is 33% new oak.

Before walking out to the vineyards, Matt gave us a description of the several types of trellising for the vines and why different wineries utilize each design. There were examples of the Lyre, a “U” system where the grapes are trained on a spur allowing for good air circulation as well as sunlight. The Geneva Double Curtain is a trellis system that is used in areas to protect against frost. The other system was the California Sprawl, which is more evident in new world grape growing regions.

Edna Valley Vineyards
Edna Valley Vineyards

Testing the Grapes

Harvest is the best time to learn about the vineyard process. Visually seeing the grapes, tasting them directly off the vine teaches the layperson to know when the grapes are ripe, how the vineyard determines when the grapes have the maximum Brix (sugar content) to pick and how the seeds should look at the time the grapes are totally ripe. This was all part of the education on the Edna Valley wine tour.

Enologist Matt Gaudinier
Enologist Matt Gaudinier testing the Brix

Using a special apparatus to measure the sugar levels enables us to see the Brix level. On this particular day, the Brix was at approximately 23 and picking commences at 24.5 so it was anticipated that the grapes would be harvested in a week or so.

The color of the grape is quite important to the winemaker. When the grape shows evidence of being more yellow-brown, the wine is more likely to deliver flavors of tropical fruits.

Chardonnay Grapes
Chardonnay Grapes

Tasting Chardonnay

While in the vineyards we tasted the 2012 Central Coast Chardonnay. The wine was creamier with hints of tropical fruits. The wine aged six months in French oak with 33% in new oak and 33% receiving malolactic fermentation giving the wine its 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 a total of 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 the 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 superb. The Chardonnay pairing consisted of four different preparations of scallops paired with four Chardonnays. The scallops were cooked to perfection, 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 is bright and crisp with 6 – 8 months in neutral oak. There is no malolactic fermentation. The wine was my favorite.

Returning to the Paragon Chardonnay, this time we sampled the 2011 paired with a Seared Scallop with Romesco, a red pepper sauce. Next came the 2011 Heritage Chardonnay, aged 14 months with 35% being in 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 actually preferred these with the Fleur de Edna and the Paragon. This shows that everyone’s palate is different; what may be ideal for pairing with one person can be quite different for another.

Thomas Hill Organics Scallops
Thomas Hill Organics Scallops

Edna Valley Luncheon

At lunch, they served a bouillabaisse with several kinds of fish. What stood out was the halibut. It melted in your mouth with 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 possibly have to offer, I insisted on sampling other varietals and more reds. The wine that caught my eye 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.

In the end, I find a comprehensive tour is always well received at a larger winery.
Edna Valley Vineyards certainly proved this true at Chardonnay From Grape To Glass.