Lynn Krausmann was one of those ABC (anything but chardonnay) people.
That is until a few years ago when the pinot noir fanatic realized she could make a captivating chardonnay.
Krausmann is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Pellegrini, 2015 Unoaked Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay at $24.
This chardonnay impresses with its full-blown aromas and flavors — mango, peach and lemon zest. It’s lush, yet crisp, with a good undercurrent of acidity. This well-crafted chardonnay is a steal for the quality.
“I approached white winemaking from the perspective that I have approached making pinot noir,” Krausmann said. “I am highlighting the fruit’s personality, preserving intricate aromatics while focusing on the mouth-feel and making an exquisite textural experience. If I can nail that in pinot noir, I can make captivating chardonnay.”
With a degree in biology, Krausmann soon discovered she was ill prepared for the world of work. She set out to wait tables, and her default job turned out to be a twist of fate. That’s when wine spoke to her.
“It inspired my fascination with the topic of wine, my endless curiosity, compulsion to explore subjects in depth and the capacity to thrive on learning,” Kausmann said. “It propelled me along the pathway to discovering wine through tasting and voracious reading of textbooks, journals and wine columns — anything I could get my hands on!”
Krausmann, 56, had an “aha” moment after reading a magazine article by Gerald Asher on the University of California-Davis Enology Program. It inspired her to move across the country and enroll at U.C. Davis to pursue the program. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fermentation science in 1987, and today she’s the winemaker for Santa Rosa’s Pellegrini Wine Co.
The winemaker said she keeps her ego in check with making chardonnay.
“Because chardonnay is a relatively neutral varietal, it’s like a blank canvas on which the winemaker can have a profound influence,” Krausmann said. “The challenge for winemakers with chardonnay is to avoid making their imprint too deep. For some, it’s impossible to resist the urge to show off their winemaking technique, masking the inherent beauty of the chardonnay fruit itself.”
Krausmann lets the grape do the talking.
“My approach is to showcase the pure fresh fruit flavors that make Russian River chardonnay spectacular: lemon jest, citrus, apple, nectarine,” she said.
“When a wine has beautiful fruit and fantastic acid, it doesn’t need any adornment. It can shine on its own. I am particularly focused on texture and mouth-feel in crafting wines, revealed in this wine as a creamy counterbalance to the bright acidity of Russian River Valley chardonnay.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Pellegrini, 2015 Unoaked Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.1% alcohol, $24. ★★★★
This chardonnay impresses with its full-blown aromas and flavors — mango, peach and lemon zest. It’s lush, yet crisp, with an undercurrent of crisp acidity. It’s a steal for the quality. Well crafted.
Three Sticks, 2015 One Sky Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay, 14.2%, $50. ★★★★1/2: This is a class act chardonnay with a blousy texture. While its crisp texture keeps it in check, the Three Sticks plays to chardonnay lovers who crave decadence. The crowd can’t resist lush fruit with notes of butterscotch and creme brulee This is precisely why Three Sticks has a big following.
Kendall-Jackson, 2015 Jackson Estate Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, 13.5%, $28. ★★★★: This is a pretty chardonnay, a charmer. It has notes of mango, honeysuckle and peach. A kiss of vanilla on the finish. Nice length.
Decoy, 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.5%, $20. ★★★1/2: This is a user-friendly chardonnay that reels you in. It’s approachable and has appealing flavors — apricot, honeysuckle and melon. It has a seamless texture, but it’s the fruit that takes the lead. A great wine for the budget-minded.
MacRostie, 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.2%, $34. ★★★★: A rich and creamy chardonnay with aromas of jasmine and flavors of lime, mineral and green apple. Bright acidity balances the lush texture. Lovely.