Domestic Selection: Chardonnay, 1990. Mount Palomar

In 1969 radio station KBIG founder, John Poole, sold the sta­tion in pursuit of a more relaxed life style: farming. He acquired a 173 acre property and planted 100 acres of grape vines. Mount Palo­mar was one of the very first vine­yards to be established in the now burgeoning Temecula wine grow­ing district of Southern California.

Temecula lies on a plateau, 1400 feet above sea level, sur­rounded by mountains. This sun-drenched “mountain valley” is a unique viticultural district in many ways. At this elevation, night-time temperatures range colder than in most of Northern California’s vineyard districts. Cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean, just 25 miles west, flow through gaps and passes in the coastal mountain range. The region’s underlying ge­ology forms a huge basin which stores water runoff from well-drained, decomposed granite sur­face soils. All of these elements have a positive effect on the devel­opment of flavor and balance in the wines. Furthermore, Temecula’s granitic soils do not harbor the dreaded plant louse, phylloxera. Grape vines thrive there on their own, ungrafted rootstocks.

Vineyard manager Mario Mor­amarco helped Poole set up the op­eration. Winemaker Joe Cherpin joined them in 1976. With their guidance, Palomar blazed a trail of innovation. It was one of the first California wineries to harvest frui­ty varieties like Riesling early, for fresher, crisper flavors. It was the first Temecula grape grower to em­ploy leaf removal, allowing more sunlight and air circulation into the grape bunches, for better flavor. Moreover, Palomar was the first Temecula winery to employ barrel fermentation in Chardonnay.

Barrel fermentation has been the technique of choice for French winemakers in Chardonnay’s an­cestral home, Bourgogne.The method imparts a wonderful, but­tery, toasty character to their Char­donnays, the great “White Burgundies”. Ours follows suit.

This benchmark Chardonnay comes from the last vintage worked by Mr. Cherpin before he retired from Mount Palomar Win­ery. The label contains an error. This wine is 100% barrel ferment­ed Chardonnay. It has a clear gold/green color and a fragrant nose of vanilla and green plum. In the mouth it is mellow, yet crisp, with flavors of plum, nectarine and oak. The clean, dry finish holds hints of cinnamon/apple.

Serve chilled with veal, grilled fish or shrimp scampi.

Cellaring Notes: Delicious now through 1994. Larry Tepper

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