Trial and error. That's what is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Sebastiani, 2010 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay at $13.
"I have done a lot of experimentation to make higher quality chardonnay since the 1980s," said winemaker Mark Lyon. "I know what needs to be done to maximize its quality."
The chardonnay has a creamy texture and it's layered with flavors of apple, melon, lemon curd and a hint of butterscotch. It has a creamy texture and is a steal for the price.
Lyon said keeping this bottling small gives it an edge.
"We're not trying to make a 100,000-plus case program," he said. "Our goals are between 50,000 to 75,000 annually. It's much better to manage quality that way."
The fermentation process also makes the wine a standout, he said.
"We do both barrel fermentation (warmer, more lees contact) and tank fermentation (colder, longer fermentation)," Lyon said. "Both together bring out the best in fruit flavors and richness with chardonnay."
Lyon said he's passionate about barrel-fermented chardonnay from both Sonoma and France's Burgundy region.
"My passion is maniacal, with lots of drive to be sure all the details - and there are lots - are in place and properly done," he said.
Lyon said he has been making wine since the early 1980s and he's still obsessed with producing it.
"Sometimes I can't shut off my mind at times during harvest," he said. "I realize what a gift age and experience is now. I know more than any time in the past what has to be done and when, during harvest and the life of wines, while in my stewardship."
The biggest challenge during harvest?
"Pressure to pick grapes before they are ideally ripe," Lyon said. "Growers can get very angry and acting out towards me, and this is the last thing I need during harvest. My goal is to maximize quality because I eventually answer to the consumer."
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.