A gem on the road to finding the best buttery chardonnays
Last week I was up in Sonoma on business and had a couple extra hours to kill so I went out in search of more great buttery chardonnay for our customers. In my searching I came across one mention of a tasting room in Napa that apparently had excellent chardonnay. Now, when I call this tasting room a hidden gem it is somewhat of a double entendre because it is both excellent and hard to find physically. I tried to find it with Google Maps and the icon, although close, was not where the actually tasting room was. I ended up having to ask some of the staff of the Meritage Resort & Spa how to find the winery. On the map you can see that it's best to park in the back and walk down what looks like a deliveries entrance to get to the winery.
The tasting room it'self is in a cave where the hotel spa is as well. The website claims it is 40 feet underground which unfortunately is not an elevator taking you down to a subterranean cave but a tunnel built into the side of a hill that leads you to rooms under the vineyard. Still very cool though. I was there on a Tuesday and it was not too crowded but given the size of the tasting room and the fact that the hotel (and the one next to it) probably promote tastings there, I am sure it would be busy on the weekends.
The chardonnays at Trinitas are just fantastic. My tasting notes on the 2013 Chardonnay Carneros said "reminds me of Rombauer with less butter." I went on to taste the 2010 & 2013 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay which were quite different. It was amazing to me that a 2010 could last that long and taste so good. In speaking with the staff they told me that the wine maker does his best to not agitate his wines while they are in the barrel and he minimizes air going into the barrels while they age. This allows the wine to mature without oxidation and is apparently part of the secret to how they get ageable chardonnays. It is hearsay but apparently one of the wine makers from Rombauer came to taste at Trinitas and said that they had great wines, so if the winemaker of my favorite chardonnay likes it, it must be good!
And for the tasting notes:
Trinitas 2013 Carneros Chardonnay
Nice oak and butter with a hint of brown sugar. This wine is made with half American oak and half Russian oak which leaves it with a lighter oak taste than 100% American or French oak. Interestingly, although the flavor has more of the buttery characteristics I love, it has a green apple aroma. And as I stated above, this wine reminds me of Rombauer. I think it is the hint of brown sugar which I don't tend to find in a lot of chardonnays but I think ads to Rombauer's perfect flavor. The staff described this as more of a cinnamon/apple pie flavor. $32
Trinitas 2013 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay
This wine was great all around. It had a wonderful vanilla on the nose which made you just want to dive into it. It had great butter and oak which comes from 95% American oak, 5% Russian oak and 100% malolactic fermentation. This chardonnay was great because the oak and butter last on your tongue for quite some time. My notes say this is a "must have." $40
Trinitas 2010 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay
This was a really cool part of my tasting. I actually got to taste the 2010 vs. the 2013. Now, you might think the 2010 would be over-the-hill but this wine was great. The wine starts with a wonderful mixture of toast, popcorn and marshmallow on the nose. I literally sat there just smelling the wine for a bit before tasting it. The chardonnay had some interesting flavors that I would not commonly use to describe a chardonnay but I think worked well together. I got a hint of campfire as the wine hit my tongue. It was not obtrusive at all (i.e. like a smoky scotch) but was inviting as the wines flavors developed. I picked up butter and oak next with a combination of whipped cream and lemonade. Lastly I picked up a subtle green olive flavor as the aftertaste. So, as I said, strange flavors to describe a chardonnay but I guarantee you, it worked.
Trinitas 2012 Family Collection Rutherford Chardonnay
This wine I described as a jewel. The wine spends significant time in new oak and goes through 100% malolactic fermentation. The first thing you notice is the aroma which gives off a beautiful oak marshmallow nose with butter, vanilla and cream. I even put in my notes "Wow! And I have not even tasted it yet." The first sip is like buttered popcorn in your mouth and you can taste that this wine has sat in oak for extra time. There is a slight bitterness but it rounds out into a fine cream. I tend to be pretty good at picking out and describing flavors but this wine is so complex that I had trouble picking out all of the subtle changes. Pricey at $65 but worth getting a bottle for a special occasion.
The chardonnays were so good here that I decided to try some of the reds as well. I recommend this if you have time. This winery has truly great wines.