Adam and Dianna Lee are the deciders.

Come harvest, it's their call, and sound judgment is key when crafting a standout like our wine-of-the—week winner — the Novy, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at the budget-savvy price of $19.

"Harvest is truly our only chance for the next 12 months to do what we do," Adam said. "Everything that follows is really determined and set in motion by the choices we make now. It is exhilarating in a way that is hard to describe ... "

The Novy is a toasty chardonnay with a creamy texture. Bright, vibrant and rich with layered flavors of honeysuckle, apple, spice and a touch of cr?e brulee. It's striking.

Novy is a sister winery to the Lees' Santa Rosa-based Siduri winery, which focuses on pinot noir. Novy, on the other hand, explores many varietals including chardonnay.

"This Novy chardonnay is a product of the vintage, perhaps more than anything else," Adam said. "The 2011 vintage was the coolest vintage we have ever experienced."

It was a vintage that required being choosey with the grapes.

"The fruit was rained on, starting on October 3 and through October 11," Adam said. "We were concerned that rot would be an issue, so we sorted the chardonnay out very thoroughly and slowly before pressing it."

This harvest has the couple working 70 to 80 hours a week again this year and the Lees report that the weather has been relatively agreeable.

"It hasn't been a really hot year, just an early year," Adam said. "Everything budded out early, flowered early, etc. It is almost like the whole season has been moved up a couple of weeks."

As for the crop load, the Lees said it looks almost as big as last year.

"There's an excitement about harvest that thrills us," Adam said. "The fact that we find it just as exciting today as we did 20 years ago is probably why we are a good fit as winemakers."

<em>Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.</em>


<strong>Press Democrat's Wine of the Week</strong>

<em><strong> Scouting for the tastiest chardonnays</strong></em>

Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of chardonnays, from fruit-forward to elegant. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the Novy Family Winery, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at $19, a great value for the price.

<strong>TOP PICK</strong>

Novy Family Winery

Novy Family Winery, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.5 percent alcohol, $19.

A toasty chardonnay with a creamy texture. Bright, vibrant and rich with layered flavors of apple, spice and a touch of cr?e brulee. Striking.

<strong>Others worth mentioning:</strong>

Gary Farrell, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.1 percent, $35.

A rich, vibrant chardonnay, buoyed with crisp acidity. Layered flavors of honey, citrus and spice. Lingering finish.

Trione, 2010 River Road Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.1 percent, $30.

A rich chardonnay with a silky texture. Exotic flavors with notes of apple, orange and spice. A hint of almond. Impressive.

Landmark Vineyards Overlook, 2011 Sonoma County California Chardonnay, 14.0 percent, $25.

A complex chardonnay with a lush texture. Aromas and flavors of apple, nectarine, lemon and spice. Nice length.

Gracianna, 2012 Suzanne's Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 13.6 percent, $34.