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Wine of the week: Alta Maria Chardonnay 2012

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The newly released Alta Maria Chardonnay 2012 ($28), is their first Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay in couple years (botrytis moved in on the 2010 vintage, while frost was the culprit in 2011) and it’s wickedly good. Aromatics of wet stones, minerals, citrus, lemon pith and just a hint of orange zest are inviting. Its flavors are focused with lemon curd, lemon meringue, lemon bar layered and honeycomb on the palate, with a helping of minerals, brewed tea (chamomile), green apple, quince and unripe green pear.

No excess fat here either; it shows good focus and really spotlights the fruit, not the wood (aged in neutral barrels) or the winemaking process. Well structured with a spine of great acidity, it has pinpoint Chablis-like flavors that are elegant but still bright and intriguing. Firm but judiciously juicy, it gives good flavor pop and ends on an upbeat note. Give it some time in the glass to open up and you will be further rewarded.

Alta Maria Vineyard is a small, artisan winery focusing on producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the cold and oceanic Santa Maria Valley appellation in Santa Barbara County, founded by 9th Generation California James Ontiveros, and winemaker and long-time college friend Paul Wilkins. Alta Maria’s wines are inspired by the old world regions of France and are classic examples of purity, balance and complexity.

Alta Maria Vineyard makes small lots of wines, handcrafted barrel by barrel, drawn specifically from the Santa Maria Valley, including Mr. Ontiveros' own Rancho Ontiveros, which he planted himself as part of an old family, land grant site.

Previous wine of the week: Qupe' Chardonnay "Y" Block 2012.

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