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Wine of the week: Husch, 2014 Mendocino Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a versatile actor, one that has countless costumes.

That’s what fascinates Brad Holstine about the varietal.

Holstine is the winemaker/family owner behind our wine-of-the-week winner, the Husch, 2014 Mendocino Chardonnay at $15. This chardonnay catches you off guard because it has so much going on. It’s more layered than you would expect for a $15 wine. The chardonnay has aromas and flavors of apple, pineapple, pear, toast and a hint of caramel. Yet the wine’s bright fruit upstages the other flavors, leaving a lasting impression.

Holstine said what the uninitiated don’t know about chardonnay is how readily it lends itself to different styles.

“From sparkling wine to unoaked fruit-forward bottlings or a big oaky California style, chardonnay remains extremely generous over a very wide range of styles,” he said.

It’s these varied permutations that continue to wow Holstine. That said, the style he opts for is complex, yet fruit forward.

“Our focus for the 2014 Mendocino chardonnay was to craft a traditional barrel fermented chardonnay, with the lush palate, spice undertones and barrel nuances expected from barrel fermentation, while letting the fruit shine above all.”

Holstine’s title is winemaker/family owner, and he has been with Husch Vineyards in Philo since 2006. He came on board as assistant winemaker in 2003. His degree in environmental engineering from Cal Poly in 1996, which he followed up by working for several small wineries.

In 1992 Holstine was working harvest at Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, a small zinfandel producer located in a remote corner of the Central Valley outside of San Luis Obispo.

What inspired Holstine most in those early days was the grape harvest. He said it made quite an impression on him.

“I quickly discovered that many of the concepts, chemistry and mechanical systems used in the wine industry were very similar to what I was studying in my engineering curriculum,” Holstine said. “I promptly fell in love with winemaking based on these parallels. It was also pretty obvious that the romance of winemaking trumped the romance of wastewater engineering in a heartbeat.”

As a winemaker, Holstine plays to his strengths while keeping his weaknesses in check.

“I’m hopeful that my strength is respecting the fruit and keeping things simple,” he said. “No doubt about one of my weaknesses. I’m known to over analyze; I guess it’s the engineer in me.”

Asked how Husch can afford to make a $15 wine that over-delivers, Holstine said, “We are a small, family-owned and operated winery under the leadership of the third generation. “We are extremely lucky that Husch has been established for a long time … Our priority is making the best wines we can each and every vintage and sell these wines at a fair price.”

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