Subscribe

Wine of the week: Fetzer, 2019 California Chardonnay

Chardonnay

Fetzer, 2019 California Chardonnay, 13.5%, $8, cq - not $10 4 stars. This chardonnay over-delivers with layered flavors of peach, apple and pear. Lightly toasted, it offers a kiss of vanilla on the finish. The Fetzer has some richness, but it’s kept in check with its crisp acid. This tasty chardonnay edges out its competition because it’s a steal for the price.

CHEV, 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $98, 4.5 stars. A striking chardonnay with generous fruit, bright acidity and a supple texture. Full-bodied, with notes of apple, pear and melon. Nice length, with a hint of butterscotch in the finish. Lovely.

Tongue Dancer, 2019 Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.1%, $42, 4.5 stars. A sophisticated yet breezy chardonnay. Gorgeous fruit of apple and pear, with a silky texture and a lingering finish. Balanced, yet decadent. Irresistible.

Notre Vue, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.2%, $45, 4 stars. A chardonnay that showcases stone fruit, particularly nectarine. Notes of pear, apple and jasmine in the mix. Creamy texture. Tasty.

Outerbound, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14%, $30, 4 stars. A blousy chardonnay with a silky texture and ripe flavors of pear and apple. It’s kept in check with its citrus and mineral notes. Full-bodied. Lingering finish. Pretty.

A winemaker is a hybrid: both a pragmatist and a free spirit. And both show up in the bottle.

“I’m a meticulous planner, and the chemistry of wine is paramount to me,” said Fetzer winemaker Margaret Leonardi. “In this profession, there are a myriad of factors that are beyond your control. Although I struggle at times with this unpredictability, the very nature of harvest — unpredictable — is the beautiful side of winemaking that makes each lot so unique and interesting.”

This free-spirited pragmatist is behind our wine of the week winner — the Fetzer, 2019 California Chardonnay at $8. This chardonnay over-delivers with layered flavors of peach, apple and pear. Lightly toasted, it has a kiss of vanilla on the finish. The Fetzer has some richness, but it’s kept in check with its crisp acid. This tasty chardonnay is a steal for the price.

Other tasty chardonnays include: Chev, 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $98; Tongue Dancer, 2019 Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.1%, $42; Notre Vue, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.2%, $45, and Outerbound, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14%, $30.

As for the Fetzer chardonnay, Leonardi said the style she’s shooting for is one that’s crisp and clean and lightly toasted. This bright and breezy style has been Fetzer’s house style for decades. In the 1980s, Fetzer bottled “Sundial,” which was virtually unoaked. Today, small amounts of viognier, chenin blanc and French colombard are added to the mix to give it floral appeal and stone fruit flavors on the palate.

“The key to this wine is balance, knowing when to go for a bit of opulence and when to remain focused on restraint,” Leonardi said. “The 2019 vintage brought cooler temperatures, lengthening the growing season and giving the fruit plenty of time on the vine to develop bright acidity and complex flavors.”

The wine has just a touch of toast. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, and just a portion of the wine had contact with French and American oak to add complexity.

Leonardi, 33, was named head winemaker of Fetzer this year, and she’s the first woman to lead winemaking for Fetzer in the brand’s 50-plus year history. A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she earned a degree in agriculture business, with a minor in marketing, wine and viticulture in 2009.

With her roots in agriculture, becoming a winemaker was a natural fit, Leonardi said.

“My dad, (Dennis Leonardi), is a successful third‐generation organic dairy farm operator in Humboldt County,” she said. “Being raised in that lifestyle, around the ups and downs of a production agriculture business, along with his strong work ethic, shaped me from a young age to be the person I am today. Early on, I wasn’t sure what I would end up doing, but I always knew I wanted to be in production agriculture. … The unpredictable nature of bottling wine, from vintage to vintage, gives me opportunities to grow as a winemaker.”

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

Chardonnay

Fetzer, 2019 California Chardonnay, 13.5%, $8, cq - not $10 4 stars. This chardonnay over-delivers with layered flavors of peach, apple and pear. Lightly toasted, it offers a kiss of vanilla on the finish. The Fetzer has some richness, but it’s kept in check with its crisp acid. This tasty chardonnay edges out its competition because it’s a steal for the price.

CHEV, 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $98, 4.5 stars. A striking chardonnay with generous fruit, bright acidity and a supple texture. Full-bodied, with notes of apple, pear and melon. Nice length, with a hint of butterscotch in the finish. Lovely.

Tongue Dancer, 2019 Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.1%, $42, 4.5 stars. A sophisticated yet breezy chardonnay. Gorgeous fruit of apple and pear, with a silky texture and a lingering finish. Balanced, yet decadent. Irresistible.

Notre Vue, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.2%, $45, 4 stars. A chardonnay that showcases stone fruit, particularly nectarine. Notes of pear, apple and jasmine in the mix. Creamy texture. Tasty.

Outerbound, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14%, $30, 4 stars. A blousy chardonnay with a silky texture and ripe flavors of pear and apple. It’s kept in check with its citrus and mineral notes. Full-bodied. Lingering finish. Pretty.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette