Wine of the week: A standout chardonnay

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Renee Ary fell in love with wine while working her first harvest as a lab technician at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. That was 1999, said Ary, the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner, the Duckhorn Vineyards, 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay at $35.

“I remember being able to feel the energy change in the valley when harvest started and the first grapes hit the winery,” she said.

“I knew immediately the excitement that accompanied smelling and tasting the juice was something I’d never forget, and that this would be a life-long passion and career.”

The 2012 bottling is this St. Helena winery’s first chardonnay, and it’s striking. It has a lush texture, with notes of apple, pear, toast and a hint of butterscotch. It’s rich, yet it manages to be balanced.

Ary credits that to plenty of behind-the-scenes effort.

“An incredible amount of tasting and attention to detail goes into making barrel fermented chardonnay,” she said.

“We spent years leading up to the release of our 2012 vintage, finding the right vineyard sources, experimenting in the cellar and refining our style to make it what it is today.”

Fruit from each block in the vineyard is kept separate and is broken down into smaller lots in the cellar, where the experimentation with oak and blending options takes place.

The goal is to make a house style that’s full-bodied, balanced and food-friendly.

“The balance between oak and fruit is extremely important,” Ary said. “We strive not to overpower our chardonnay with oak. We seek harmony among the components and rely on oak to enhance the weight and roundness of the palate rather than provide overt toastiness.”

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