Winery: Ultimate Vineyards (formerly Maurice Car’rie Winery)
Product/Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: David Raffaele
How They Describe It
Ultimate Vineyards is focused on producing distinctive, handcrafted wines full of complexity, fruit expression, structure and balance that are reflective of our 75-acre sustainably farmed estate vineyard.
Our “naked” Chardonnay was cool-fermented in 100% stainless steel, culminating with an elegant dance of minerality and soft fruit structure. on the nose, Gravenstein apples with white flowers and custard pie. The midpalate is rich but with a firm, steely tannin profile that distinguishes it from our other Chardonnay blocks. Pair this wine with chicken alfredo and shrimp scampi.
How I Describe It
Aligning to a tee with other young unoaked Chardonnays, the Ultimate 2019 Chardonnay San Chen shows clear pale lemon yellow. It’s similar in hue to the Riesling from Ultimate’s legacy brand, Maurice Car’rie Winery. Appearance aside, however, these are vastly different wines.
A burst of pineapple and green apple springs from the glass. Equally strongly, though unexpectedly, is a distinctive apricot aroma. Undertones of Asian pear, banana cream, and lemon zest join in. And despite the 100% steel tank aging, a slight freshly baked bread smell perhaps points to a tiny bit of lees contact.
Yeasty lees come through quite strongly on the Ultimate 2019 Chardonnay Sans Chen, with a delicious layer of fresh brioche. Lemon and pineapple take the lead among fruit characteristics, though there is plenty of apricot and apple to make it interesting. Below it all, hints of lychee, orange Tang, and Asian pear create a truly unique Temecula wine.
This is a dry wine. Alcohol content is medium at 13.5% ABV. High acid cuts through, giving a medium-plus body. Flavor intensity is similarly medium-plus, but the finish is beautifully long.
Why is This Wine Special?
First, a bit of housekeeping. In case it isn’t clear, Ultimate Vineyards is a rebranding of Maurice Car’rie Winery after its sale to current owner Janak Patel. Maurice Car’rie and Van Roekel wines haven’t disappeared. However, expect Ultimate to gradually transition to center stage.
On the Temecula Wine Ratings “Find Wines” menu, Ultimate Vineyards will have its own separate winery designation from Maurice Car’rie.
Any time you see “sans chen” (or sans chêne if you’re taking directly from French) on your wine bottle, it means the liquid never saw contact with oak barrels. With Chardonnay, that implies a lot of what you can expect, before ever popping the cork.
For one, this Chardonnay is almost guaranteed to not be buttery. Butteriness in Chardonnay comes from a process called malolactic fermentation (malo or MLF for short). Getting a little nerdy, MLF is a process which converts the wine’s malic acid (which is sour) into lactic acid (which is buttery). It’s used nearly universally in red wines, and was pioneered in Burgundy to make their Chardonnays slightly less tart.
In Burgundy, MLF is used judiciously, to find balance between tart and buttery. In California beginning in the 1980’s, though, some wineries began putting their Chardonnays through full MLF, removing all the malic acid and giving the wine a mouthfeel akin to clarified butter. If you can’t tell, personally, it’s not my thing. But if you enjoy a nice Kendall Jackson or Coppola Votre Santé, I’m not one to judge.
Similarly, you can expect an unoaked Chardonnay to be somewhat tart. Chardonnay grapes naturally have high acid. This complements the varietal’s rich flavor profile, and helps to balance out its naturally beefy body — something I believe is an even greater positive in tropically-flavored warm climate Chardonnays like this one.
When & How I Would Drink It
The Ultimate 2019 Chardonnay Sans Chen is an absolutely beautiful wine, which showcases the best of what the Temecula Valley AVA terroir does to this grape varietal. It’s a young wine, but I strongly recommend drinking it now. While the high acid helps preserve the wine, its stainless steel aging means there will be little transformation as the bottle matures.
I see the 2019 Chardonnay San Chen as the ultimate (catch the pun?) lunch wine. The chicken alfredo and shrimp scampi recommendations above are great. In addition, I would pour this bottle next to turkey clubs and BLT’s, cobb salads, and eggs benedict. Serve chilled.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $30
Cases Produced: 472 cases
Have you tried the Ultimate 2019 Chardonnay Sans Chen? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.