Alma Rosa El Jalbali Vineyard Chardonnay 2005

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In response to a recent review I wrote on Au Bon Climat’s 2001 Mt. Carmel Chardonnay, I was invited by John Clerides of Marquis to taste another from them to see if I still found it to be alcoholic and heavily oaked. While we could not find an appropriate comparison from ABC, I was given this bottle to sample from the same region in the Santa Rita Hills. While the ABC was made with grapes from the Mt. Carmel vineyard, nearby is the El Jalbali vineyard, from which Alma Rosa sourced the grapes for this chardonnay.

Where the visionary and maverick winemaker Jim Clendenon runs Au Bon Climat, Alma Rosa is the Sanfords’ (also pioneers of the region) latest project after their split with Sanford Winery. I visited Alma Rosa a few months ago but did not get a chance to taste their whites at the time. Interestingly, the lore I’ve heard about California seems to indicate that the oaky days of Santa Barabara County were largely in the 90’s and early 2000’s, which could explain the stylistic approach of the 2001 ABC. As we shall see, this wine is made very differently.

With quite a rich and tropical nose here I also got nectarine, kiwi and banana – aromas somewhat typical for a California chardonnay, but with a bit more mineral lacing than you might expect. The palate, however, is where all the action is in this wine. There is a definite minerality up front with some tart kiwi and lime notes that leads into a finish of banana and nectarine. The whole palate is structured around a bracing and clean acidity that brings brightness and alacrity to the fruit. Ultimately, this wine is driven toward a layered finish that is both tart and clean, and, while rich, the wine is not creamy nor laden with oaken vanilla flavours. In fact, it still retains a subtle degree of austerity despite its approachability and really is all the better for it. Very well done and another score for the Sanfords. And, as a brief note Alma Rosa claims to be a fully sustainable winery.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$40 at Marquis

Full Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample from Marquis Wine Cellars who exclusively sell Alma Rosa wines in Vancouver


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