Santa Barbara County

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In this ultra-cool climate site way out by Lompoc, vintage We’ve gotten many people to re-adore Chardonnay with the fresh, uncluttered house style at The Ojai Vineyard. That feel goes back to 2000, the first vintage where Adam experimented with using entirely neutral French oak on his Bien Nacido Chardonnay. The transparency of vineyard character was so compelling that this stark approach became the Chardonnay template going forward.

Now we’re presenting something different: our 2017 Special Bottling of Chardonnay from Puerta Del Mark marks the first Chardonnay in 20 years at The Ojai Vineyard that features 50% new French oak. On paper that’s a wild aberrance from our style, but the results are startlingly balanced and beautiful.

The Chardonnay vines out at Puerta Del Mar always provide fruit with an enticing subtlety and fine boned structure. Over the past few years Adam got to liking the taste of the Puerta Del Mar that aged in new barrels (aside: this is just a few barrels—we do have to replenish retired barrels—but they’re spread out across the Chardonnays). He saw the potential for a bottling that re-explores that nexus of Chardonnay and longer elevage in new French oak, and 2017 provided the right gently ripened fruit for the play.

It was a thoughtful, tight-rope approach to wood that makes this Special Bottling such a gorgeous wine. Among many options for barrel coopers, Adam has always liked the role that Damy plays in his Chardonnays, particularly when fashioned from oak harvested in the Alliers forest. The Damy house’s medium toast is a true medium, and provides clean elegance and ultra-fine tannin to Chardonnay. There’s both subtlety and commanding presence, much like Puerta Del Mar Chardonnay itself.

For the special barrel that would rear this special bottling, the winery paid more to have the staves aged for an additional year (stacked outside in the elements), softening the tannins further. That barrel (and one other neutral one for the blend) was steam conditioned and cleaned in the house technique, then filled with Puerta Del Mar Chardonnay to ferment and rest on its lees for 16 months, an additional five months beyond when our other 2017 Chardonnays were bottled.

The extra months in barrel reveals more chalky minerality, lily-like floral power, and salty cured lemon notes—all of which give it terrific lift! The barrel speaks too, with a soft beautiful voice, providing gentle and exotic whiffs of vanilla, clove, and demerara sugar.

The fruit on the palate is elevated into a creamier realm, while also highlighting tropical pineapple in a way we don’t see in the standard bottling. While there’s a touch more cushion over the framework, nothing of the vineyard character is effaced or cluttered when tasted alongside the standard bottling. It’s a deliciously structured and fresh wine, with fine etched flavors, great salinity and a substantial, dynamic flow on the palate. Expect it to flesh out over the next 3-5 years and live at least a decade longer.

Blend: 100% Chardonnay | Alc: 13.0% | Vinification: Barrel Fermented in 50% New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 16 Months | Total Production 44 cases

Press Reviews

Antonio Galloni’s Vinous

“The 2017 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar Special Selection is a blend of barrels that spent more time in oak and saw more new wood. Not surprisingly, those choices bring out a more tropical set of aromas and flavors. Orange peel, spice, vanillin and passion fruit all develop nicely in the glass. I find the greater oak influence here works very nicely to complement the naturally more austere leanings of Puerta del Mar. The result is a gorgeous, expressive super-classic Santa Barbara Chardonnay loaded with personality. I loved it.” – Antonio Galloni 95 Points

Jeb Dunnuck

“The 2017 Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar Vineyard Special Bottling was brought up in 50% new French oak whereas the regular release sees just 5% new oak. It also spent 16 months in barrel versus 11 months for the base cuvee. I don’t always find the Special Bottling superior to the regular bottling, but in this case, the change in elevage has resulted in a deep, richer, more textured wine. Offering plenty of tropical and orchard fruit interwoven with hints of crème caramel, white flowers, and brioche, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a rounded, layered texture, and a great finish. Its oak is beautifully integrated, yet it will still benefit from a year or so of bottle age and keep for over a decade.” Jeb Dunnuck – 95 Points