2017 I. Brand & Family Chardonnay



I realize that not that many people in the Midwest keep up with the San Francisco Chronicle. But, San Francisco is the major metropolitan area right at the nexus of the North Coast, Central Valley, and Central Coast – basically all of California, one of the world’s largest wine producers. So when the city’s major publication announces a new Winemaker of the Year, I pay attention.

And me being me, I  read up, found the winery, and sought out a deal. The owners are Ian and Heather Brand and the wine is I Brand & Family, with Escolle Chardonnay being the highlight. Now here is the Chronicle story:

“Ian Brand, The Chronicle’s 2018 Winemaker of the Year, is quite possibly the most interesting vintner in Monterey County today.

“After graduating from college in Vermont, winemaker, owner and native New Englander Ian Brand found a job on the Alaskan Peninsula leading groups of tourists to see grizzly bears in the wild. He continued his adventures for five years, ski-bumming, surf-bumming, doing wildlife surveys in the canyons of Utah, and joining the Peace Corps in Ecuador, eventually ending up broke and homeless in Santa Cruz. He felt lucky to find a job at the Bonny Doon Vineyard, where his first harvest hooked him on winemaking. He joined Big Basin Vineyards, an acclaimed Santa Cruz Mountains producer, as vineyard manager and assistant winemaker for four years. In 2008, he and his wife Heather decided to move to Monterey County and strike out on their own.

“Winegrapes in this area benefit from the regular influx of cooling sea air from the 11,000 foot deep Monterey Marine Canyon. Dramatic microclimates result from onshore breezes and fog as they interplay with the coastal mountain ranges, valleys and California sunshine. Combined with varied soils and substrates, predominantly granite based and marine sediments, west of the San Andreas Fault on the Pacific Plate, these microclimates create a bevy of interesting vineyards.”

The results are not to be denied – Winemaker of the Year from The Chronicle and a simply amazing Chardonnay:

Delicious aromas of gold apple, quince, neroli and lime blossom rise up from the glass, but in a suave and moseying way. Everything about the nose (and the palate) is mise in place – in its place – fitted, ready, but not exaggerated. On the palate there is a wonderful hit of umami richness that comes across as roasted hazelnut, but just a bare touch of it, giving a background spice and richness to the peach, pear and salty minerality that are the main structural flavor elements of the wine. The finish is long and lingering, delicious to drink now but hinting at a long life to come.

While I don’t often stray from Burgundy for my Chardonnay drinking, this wine tempts me  away to do just that. You should try it, too.

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