Domestic Selection: Chardonnay, 1989. Josu
The Joshua Hill Winery label is a proud premium brand offered by what is, actually, the ninth largest winery in the U.S., Delicato Vineyards. A vintner’s vintner, Delicato is a family owned Central Valley winery, now in its 56th successful year. It operates the second largest single-plant winery in the nation, with a storage capacity of over 40 million gallons. It also owns the San Bernabe vineyard which yields a phenomenal 30% of all the wine grapes grown in Monterey County. It is the largest single vineyard in the world! Additionally, Delicato owns another major vineyard in the Sierra Foothills and also sources grapes from all principal growing areas in the state.
The majority of Delicato’s production, not surprisingly, is of the jug and bag-in-box genre, with sales amounting to about two million cases annually.
Joshua Hill, on the other hand, is operated as a “negociant” brand, and is produced on a much smaller scale. (The word “negociant” is French, and comes from the Latin negotium which means “business”.) The idea of a negociant is to produce the best wine he/she can by taking control of all steps of the process. Negociants can subcontract for special grapes, winemakers, winery facilities, and, in fact, everything necessary to achieve whatever quality level they desire. The desire in this case was a superb, vintage Napa Chardonnay.
The fruit (80%) came from a prestigious estate in St. Helena; the rest (20%) from various Napa growers. The wine matured in Limousin Forest oak casks; the most sought-after medium for this purpose.
Oak mellows Chardonnay’s lemony, citrusy character with toasty, buttery, vanilla-like top-notes. Such treatment is traditional in Chardonnay’s homeland, Bourgogne (Burgundy, France). California vintners love to treat this grape to a “kiss of the oak”, too.
Our selection has a lovely golden-green hue and a complex bouquet of green plum, peach, toast and vanilla. It is medium-full in the mouth, somewhat viscous, mellow and yet offers refreshingly good, crisp acidity. The wine finishes dry and clean with the green plum flavors lingering on.
Serve moderately chilled to accompany sautéed spiced (nutmeg and white pepper) chicken breast fillets topped with a rich cream sauce, or broiled swordfish or halibut steaks with lemon and butter, or lobster ravioli in a butter and garlic sauce.
Cellaring Notes: Nearing its peak. Drink now through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
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