Kongsgaard v. Delille Estate: Two Aged Whites from the United States

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I recently dug into my cellar and pulled out two very highly respected wines made by two US producers who have a track record for excellent and age-worthy white wines. One has a greater pedigree and cult status than the other, and is priced as such. The question facing me was both whether such lauded wines truly were age worthy and which of the two producers succeeded the most.

I began with the Kongsgaard Napa Chardonnay 2006. Kongsgaard is an iconic producer particularly well known for the The Judge Chardonnay, which costs more than twice what this wine does. Kongsgaard is a pretty hardcore producer, focusing on tiny plots, hand harvested grapes, and meticulous cellar practices, though it is hard to find info on precisely what they do with each wine. The Napa Chardonnay is made with fruit grown via two long-term contracts with Carneros’ famed Hudson and Hyde vineyards.

I must admit that I was quite disappointed in this wine. Unlike the absolutely stunning 2004 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay I drank a few weeks ago, this was lacking depth and complexity and was even fairly short on the finish. It did have great acid and balance and a nice candied lemon (rather than over the top orchard) fruit quality. However, I think this wine was likely superior a couple years ago and is well into its decline. Given the pedigree of this bottle, I’d say this is a serious strike for the ageability of California Chard. Undoubtedly overpriced for the quality. Given the reputation I feel obliged to try another at some point.

Very Good+
$100 at Vinopolis Portland (purchased a few years ago)

The 2005 Delille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, however, was an absolutely delicious wine and utterly complete. Delille is one of the top names in Washington State, known particularly well for their red wines and for their side project Doyenne, which makes big and rich Rhone variety wines. While Delille’s reds were once great examples of quality wine making I’ve found that recently they have moved a bit too far towards over the top richness. This sort of approach always sacrifices ageability. However, I’ve always felt their white Bordeaux influenced blend an extremely good and mostly unnoticed wine. So, I decided to buy a bottle and see how it aged.

I’d say this wine is peaking right now, but it’s layer upon layer of rich and creamy custard, lemon, orchard fruits and spices was truly stunning and showing all the amazing secondary characteristics you expect from aged white Bordeaux. Of course, this wine has all the other necessities for a complete wine, including great balance, weight and a very long finish. It paired perfectly with a spinach stuffed sole drenched in a shrimp roux.

~$70 in B.C. when I bought it several years ago.


  1. Greg Lill
    March 20, 2012

    How interesting that you have our wine, DeLille Cellars Chaluer Estate Blanc with one of my favorite Chardonnays from California, Kongsgaard. I do have both wines in my cellars so I will have to try them as well. John Kongsgaard is obviously a great wine maker. I visted him years ago when he was making the wine at Luna at the start of the Silverado trail. At that time he called his winemaking technique as “Death and Reserection”, that he would get the Chardonnay on the lees and stir for a few weeks and then leave the wines alone for several months and “reserect” the wine later. This can be a risky way to barrel age Chardonnay and that may account for some of the variation I have expiereinced as well on aging his Chardonnays. One thing I can say is that when you get one that is good it is REALLY good!! He is still one of my favorite producers of California Chardonnay and I continue to stay on his mailing list every year.

  2. Shea
    March 21, 2012

    Greg, thanks for the comment. You’ve sold me on trying several more of kongsgaard’s chards. I’m curious why you think his cellar technique might impact ageability. Does it have to do with the stability of the wine or something else?

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