Domestic Selection: Chardonnay, 1989. Plume Ridge

With a degree in business from California State University, Los Angeles, Christina Coulourides went to work for one of the largest specialty wine retail chains in the world. She acquired a thorough, top-to-bottom understanding of the wine business. Then, in 1981, she began working for one of Califor­nia’s finest “old guard” restau­rants, selecting wines for their list. The Chronicle Restaurant earned The Wine Spectator’s “GRAND AWARD” for its outstanding wine cellar in each successive year of her stewardship there.

Christina now administers Plume Ridge Cellars, founded as a “negociant” operation in 1984, with the help of her husband, Leo. Negociants taste, select, blend and ship various vintners’ products, striving to create a fine, desirable, marketable brand. Ideally, art su­percedes math here: the whole ends up greater than the sum of all its parts, and at a bargain price!

One of the most important parts of this wine is its winemaker, Marco Cappelli. After having earned a degree in Oenology from U.C. Davis, he worked one vint­age each at two of Tuscany’s greatest estates. He moved on to Bordeaux to study the great Medoc Chateaux and worked in Sauternes for a vintage. Cappelli thus ascer­tained that these estates do employ technological advances, (such as he had learned at Davis), but not as replacements for classic winemak­ing techniques. Rather, they are best used to enhance these tech­niques.

Chardonnay originally comes from France, where it produces the world’s most sought after, ele­gant, dry white wines, the great “White Burgundies”. This wine was produced to emulate the Bur­gundian style. In exercising the art, it was fermented in expensive oak barrels imported from the Lim­ousin, Alliers and Vosges forests of France. The grapes were grown in prime Napa Valley districts. One would expect such a wine to cost a lot more. Again, successful negotiating is a vital part of the ex­ercise!

The wine has a medium green/gold color. The nose is fresh and flowery with hints of pineapple. The mouth-feel is medium-full, ex­hibiting the rich, buttery, mellow/dry character associated with the best Chardonnays and Burgund­ies. It finishes clean and dry with some oak “toastiness”.

Serve slightly chilled with cold cracked crab, herb roasted chicken, veal piccata, or seafood blanketed in a Chardonnay/cream sauce.

Cellaring Notes: Fine now, it will “flesh out” and complex for two or three more years.

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