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Monday, August 04, 2008

Rags to Ritchies…


While this is by no means an ideal comparison between the two heavyweight Chardonnay producers that source Ritchie Vineyard fruit (the vintages were not the same), it was as good as we could manage on a sun-drenched, Sunday afternoon picnic. The characteristics of each wine were a bit more distinct than I had imagined, w/ the Ramey showcasing a bit higher-toned, racy profile, as the Aubert unwound to reveal a fleshier, broader palate that had a touch more heft than Ramey’s. All told, the wines each had clarity, precision and brilliant minerality that is often associated with the site, with more persistence that most California chardonnays could dream of. The comparison at the quality level was almost a wash, w/ the Aubert edging out the Ramey by a nose, but its reputation, rarity and tariff were hardly justified in the parallel, to my palate.

More tasting research is warranted (bummer) to elucidate whether or not the vineyard or the producers are responsible for generating such excitement in my bones, but it’s a clinical experience that I am happy to participate in.

Ramey Chardonany, Ritchie Vineyard 2005
This showed in a style that was just as I remembered it, w/ a spicy, almost piercing nose full of honeysuckle, candlewax, white flowers, apricot spread and crushed stone scents that flirted w/ the tropical end of the spectrum, but were reeled in beautifully by a grounded, mineral characteristic. The mouth-feel showcased focus and precision, letting a bracing beam of precise stone fruits cascade to a seamless, primal finish. This, like the Aubert showed a touch of toast, but to my palate, did not reveal any excessive characteristics that threatened to knock it out of balance, 95 points.

Aubert Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard 2006
The nose was a stark contrast to the Ramey, revealing smoky notes of crème brulee, quince spread, citrus zest and spicy oak shadings. The palate was full, yet reserved, deftly demonstrating a tension between expansive flavors and channeled texture. Like most Auberts, this is likely to reveal additional dimension and intensity w/ short-term cellaring, but I certainly felt like the true colors were revealed during this taste-off, 95+ points.

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