The 2007 Alma Rosa Chardonnay comes to us from the Santa Barbara County region of California. Apparently the wine used to be crafted to resemble more of a Chablis style of chardonnay, which usually means no oak and a presence of searing acidity. From what I understand, the wine now gets the combo oak and steel deal instead of an ala carte treatment of one or the other. I never tried the earlier versions, but I’m liking the new style Richard Sanford has created.
The wine is first fermented in oak for a few weeks before being transferred to steel tanks for aging and then bottling. Malolactic fermentation, the process that softens the acids in the wine, is not carried out. The combination of oak treatment along with steel treatment leads to a wine that has slight hints of oak, refreshing acidity, tropical fruit flavors and hints of mineral. All of this makes for a wine with interesting juxtapositions of flavor. Juxta-what? It tastes good.
Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir. They also produce a limited amount of pinot gris, pinot blanc and a rose of pinot noir. Their Santa Rita Hills pinot noir, which is their widely available pinot is delicious. A little pricey if you ask me, for everyday drinking, but still in line with most California pinot noir bottlings of this quality and region. They also make several single vineyard designated pinot noir and chardonnay that come from their own estate vineyards, which I haven’t tried yet, but may be worth exploring if you like what you taste in their entry level wines.
Richard Sanford and his wife Thelma, along with other business partners originally started the Sanford Winery in 1981. When differences in business philosophy arose between the partners, Richard and Thelma left Sanford to start Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards. The winery is dedicated to organic farming and sustainable viticulture. In fact, in 2000 when they were still associated with Sanford, they were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the (CCOF) California Certified Organic Farmers. I’m glad more and more wineries are making the switch to organic and bio-dynamic farming. It just makes more sense as far as long-term vineyard health is concerned. I know it’s not always possible, but the industry is certainly headed in the right direction.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, the vinification practices employed by the wine maker were a little different in earlier vintages. For whatever reason, Richard Sanford decided to create a different style of finished product. The cool thing about chardonnay is that it’s a very flexible grape when it comes to the vinification process. It’s relatively easy to work with and responds well to many different treatment techniques. Industry people always say chardonnay is akin to a clean, blank, canvass in which the artist/winemaker is free to do whatever he or she wants. I like chardonnay that comes in all shapes and sizes so I’m glad that the grape has got a malleable personality.