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Wine of the week: Pellegrini, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Unoaked Chardonnay

This $30 bottle overdelivers for a chardonnay at this price point.|

Tasting Room: Chardonnay

Pellegrini, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Unoaked Chardonnay, 14.1%, $30, 4 stars. This chardonnay is crisp, clean and elegant. It has aromas and flavors of melon, Meyer lemon, white peach and a trace of nectarine. Balanced, with bright acid, it finishes crisp with a hint of honeysuckle. This chardonnay isn’t the top scorer in the flight, but it edged out its competitors because it overdelivers for a chardonnay at this price.

Smith-Madrone, 2018 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.5%, $45, 4.5 stars. An impressive chardonnay with great minerality and tangy citrus notes that keep its lush flavors in check. Notes of apple, apricot and brioche. Pitch-perfect balance. Extremely well-crafted.

Tongue Dancer, 2019 Chardonnay, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $50, 4.5 stars. This chardonnay has gorgeous stone fruit — peach and nectarine — with melon and tangerine in the mix. Rich, with a kiss of crème brulee, it has a creamy texture and it’s striking.

Fort Ross Chardonnay, 2019 Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $48, 4 stars. A chardonnay with great structure and layered flavors. Aromas and flavors of melon, Meyer lemon, hazelnut and a hint of toffee. While weighty, it’s mineral notes give it lift. Balanced, yet it has a rich note of caramel in its lingering finish.

Migration, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14.2%, $42, 4 stars. Pretty stone fruit of peach and nectarine meet lush notes of lemon custard. Balanced, with bright acidity and a note of mineral. Nice length. Top-rate.

Chardonnay is a malleable grape. Just like chicken, you can prepare it in a variety of ways.

This is how vintner Alexia Pellegrini and her father, Robert, see the popular varietal.

The Pellegrini family is behind their namesake wine of the week winner — the Pellegrini, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Unoaked Chardonnay, 14.1%, $30. This chardonnay is crisp, clean and elegant. It has aromas and flavors of melon, Meyer lemon, white peach and a trace of nectarine. Balanced, with bright acid, it finishes crisp with a hint of honeysuckle. This chardonnay isn’t the top scorer in the flight, but it edged out its competitors because it overdelivers for a chardonnay at this price point.

Mother Nature, Pellegrini said, is the most challenging part of making great chardonnay.

“Every vintage has its own set of challenges, whether it’s frost, hail, rain, heat, drought, fires or mold — in that order,” she said. “Those are the essential worries every grower and winemaker has until the grapes are off the vine.”

A fourth-generation vintner, Pellegrini is the general manager at the helm of operations at Pellegrini-Olivet Lane. She has a master’s degree in wine business from Sonoma State University.

“While I grew up in a wine family, it wasn’t in the vineyard,” Pellegrini said. “Home was near the family’s wine distribution warehouse in south San Francisco,” she said. “I knew things about wine sales that most kids didn’t (i.e. where the back door of the restaurant is, always eat at the bar so you can talk to the bartender/buyer and always order your own wine).”

The vintner said her interest in wine started when she took her first viticulture class at Santa Rosa Junior College.

“Standing in a vineyard in Dry Creek on a field trip was where all the dots connected for me, from working the earth in the vineyard to dragging hoses in the winery to designing packaging for bottling and opening those bottles with friends in celebration,” she said.

With 20 years of experience, the 41-year-old said she wants to build on the Pellegrini family’s legacy in California wine. The family’s Olivet Lane Estate grows pinot noir and chardonnay in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Pellegrini said she endeavors to improve the stewardship of the property, leading the charge to certify the Olivet Lane winery and vineyard through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

The Pellegrinis are considered California wine pioneers, having been associated with every tier of the wine business since 1925 as producers, grape sellers, importers and wholesale distributors. Pellegrini took the helm in 2017 and winemaker Charlie Fauroat joined her winemaking team in 2013. The two partner in crafting the wines.

What gives the winery an edge in producing top-notch chardonnay, Pellegrini said, is the family’s experience as chardonnay growers.

“When we planted chardonnay at Olivet Lane in 1975, there were only 500 acres of chardonnay planted in the entirety of California.”

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

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.

Tasting Room: Chardonnay

Pellegrini, 2019 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Unoaked Chardonnay, 14.1%, $30, 4 stars. This chardonnay is crisp, clean and elegant. It has aromas and flavors of melon, Meyer lemon, white peach and a trace of nectarine. Balanced, with bright acid, it finishes crisp with a hint of honeysuckle. This chardonnay isn’t the top scorer in the flight, but it edged out its competitors because it overdelivers for a chardonnay at this price.

Smith-Madrone, 2018 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.5%, $45, 4.5 stars. An impressive chardonnay with great minerality and tangy citrus notes that keep its lush flavors in check. Notes of apple, apricot and brioche. Pitch-perfect balance. Extremely well-crafted.

Tongue Dancer, 2019 Chardonnay, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $50, 4.5 stars. This chardonnay has gorgeous stone fruit — peach and nectarine — with melon and tangerine in the mix. Rich, with a kiss of crème brulee, it has a creamy texture and it’s striking.

Fort Ross Chardonnay, 2019 Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $48, 4 stars. A chardonnay with great structure and layered flavors. Aromas and flavors of melon, Meyer lemon, hazelnut and a hint of toffee. While weighty, it’s mineral notes give it lift. Balanced, yet it has a rich note of caramel in its lingering finish.

Migration, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14.2%, $42, 4 stars. Pretty stone fruit of peach and nectarine meet lush notes of lemon custard. Balanced, with bright acidity and a note of mineral. Nice length. Top-rate.

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