Summer is officially here, it’s time to break out the Chardonnay, America’s favorite white wine. If you think you know California Chardonnay, think again. The aromas and flavors most readily associated with Chardonnay: butter, vanilla, sweet spice, biscuit, and smoke are produced by winemaking techniques, not the grape itself. The Chardonnay grape is widely planted around the world and in many different climates, where the fruit flavor can range from tropical (banana, melon, pineapple, and guava) to citrus, apples to stone fruits (peach, nectarine, and apricot). Chardonnay is considered by many to be a “winemaker’s wine”. Employing techniques like malolactic fermentation, oak barrel aging, and extended lees contact can transform a less than perfect wine into a more acceptable one.
Kopriva embraces all of what Chardonnay can be, a reflection of a place, in this case, the Carneros AVA in Sonoma County. The terroir yields a purity of fruit from a cool climate of fog and wind which allows the grapes to slowly develop ripe flavors but still keep the acidity high. This family owned winery is so confident of their wine that they only produce one, yes, ONE wine. This is an ambitious upstart, with the stated goal to be the “Premier Unoaked Chardonnay of California”. Kopriva has joined an increasing number of California wineries offering unoaked Chardonnay, and the trend seems to be spreading. Wine lovers looking for crisp white wines to wash away the heat of summer or pair with food can find many choices in today’s marketplace. There is even a blog, unoakedchardonnay.com, that posts reviews of this increasingly popular style.
The 2012 Kopriva Unoaked Chardonnay Carneros, their 8th vintage, is a fresh, lively, delicate wine, reminiscent of White Burgundy from France, or maybe even a Chablis, yet with the riper fruit of California’s warmer climate. Stainless steel tank fermented, this wine never sees the inside of an oak barrel. No malolactic fermentation, so nix the buttery, oaky Chardonnay that was so popular over the past decades. What you have is pure Cassidy Ranch fruit, flavors of green apple, peach, grapefruit, and pineapple, crisp minerality, and a moderate alcohol level of 13.5%. There is a beautiful mouthfeel to this wine as it crosses your palate, the fruitiness at the tip of the tongue fills your mouth with a slightly leesy texture, and finishes crisp and long. This “naked” Chardonnay pairs well with food, and is the perfect summer wine, refreshing with every sip, compelling you to take another and another.
Most readily found in markets in and around the San Francisco Bay area, SoCal wine lovers can order their bottles directly from Kopriva, for just under $20. But with only 690 cases produced, it can be in short supply. If that happens, seek out another option, perhaps from the online reviews at unoakedchardonnay.com and explore the beauty of pure, unadulterated Chardonnay.