Winery: South Coast Winery
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Jon McPherson, Javier Flores
3.8 out of 5 stars on Vivino (all vintages)
Bronze Medal at 2019 Los Angeles International Wine Competition
88/100 from Vino Temecula.
How They Describe It
Harvested from Carter Estate Vineyards on August 27 & September 18, 2018
Our Carter Estate Vineyards are planted with four different Chardonnay clones, and each clonal selection possesses a different character trait or “grape personality.” in the cellars we blend the different selections and create a wine with a range of complexity. And when you are making a Chardonnay “Sans Chêne” (without oak), having multiple layers of fruit character is important, because only the fruit expresses itself. Our Chardonnay is brimming with tropical fruit aromas, luscious flavors, and a crisp finish, this is a wine to enjoy any time (perhaps tonight!). So save the wood for the barbecue and let loose the fruit!
How I Describe It
This version of Chardonnay is on the paler side, mostly lemon yellow, but with an ever-so-slight tint of green — perhaps from the grapes harvested toward the earlier end of the season.
There is a strong duality of tropical fruit and citrus. Pineapple and guava meld with lemon zest. These combine with undertones of honeysuckle, elderflower, pear, and green apple. Subtle hints of nectarine on the finish.
Similar to the nose, South Coast Winery’s 2018 Chardonnay Sans Chêne starts with a blast of tart pineapple and lemon zest. Green apple and pear follow. The finish is a blend of elderflower and crisp nectarine.
This is a dry wine with characteristically high acid. Flavors are medium-plus intensity, with a medium finish. At 13.9%, the alcohol level is medium, giving the wine a medium-plus body.
Why is This Wine Special?
First, a disclosure: I used to work for South Coast Winery Resort & Spa (along with its sister property, Carter Estate Winery and Resort). In that context, this review focuses on the wine only.
Chardonnay is an interesting grape, in that its wines are some of the most varying of the Noble Grapes. White Burgundies (where the varietal originates) tend to feature delicate citrus notes, and the high acid lends well to extended yeast exposure and oak aging. On the other hand, elsewhere in the New World, warmer climates create bright, tropically flavored Chardonnays. And in parts of California, a process called malolactic fermentation (MLF) creates a viscous, buttery texture.
With the South Coast Winery 2018 Chardonnay Sans Chêne, the winemakers clearly tried to showcase the fruit’s possibilities. The two harvest dates (see above) allowed some grapes to develop the rich tropical flavors, while others preserved the delicate citrus.
It’s worth noting two flavor profiles common in Chardonnays, which are absent in the 2018 Chardonnay Sans Chêne: toasty or yeasty bread, and woody or vanilla-ey oak. The reason for the latter is in the wine’s name: sans chêne literally translates from French to “without oak”. The former is because of a process called aging sur lie, or “on lees”, which allows the wine to soak up the doughy flavors left behind by dead yeast cells (Don’t be grossed out — if you like a nice Chablis, that’s what you’re drinking. And the majority of red wines have some lees exposure.). The result is a wine which is 100% an expression of the fruit.
This brings me to the winemakers. Working at South Coast, I was able to observe the winemaking craftsmanship of Jon McPherson and Javier Flores. These gentlemen have produced wine in the Temecula Valley AVA since the mid-1980’s, and are widely considered thought-leaders in the industry. Making a Chardonnay with no lees or oak aging lays bare how well the winemakers grew their fruit and produced their final product; there’s nothing to mask flaws. There’s risk implicit in that decision, but McPherson and Flores do tremendous justice to the varietal.
It’s also worth noting, at $16 a bottle (and even less if you are a wine club member or buy a case), this is one of the least expensive locally produced wines available in Temecula Valley. Be aware, though, there is a version of South Coast Winery’s Chardonnay Sans Chêne available at grocery stores which is different from what is available at the property. The wine reviewed here uses only locally-produced, estate-grown grapes, and features the Temecula Valley AVA stamp on the bottle; the grocery store version uses grapes sourced from other AVA’s and uses the less descriptive California AVA.
When & How I Would Drink It
Drink this wine chilled to maximize crispness. With such robust flavors and tartness, it can stand being served cold.
Unoaked and MLF-free Chardonnays combine amazingly well with cheese and creamy dishes. I partook in a glass alongside pasta carbonara. It also would go incredibly well with fish and shellfish, both cooked and raw.
How to Get It
Order Online: Sold on-site at South Coast Winery only
Bottle Price: $16
Cases Produced: ~920
Have you tried the South Coast Winery 2018 Chardonnay Sans Chêne? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.