RHV Chardonnay 2014



“California Chardonnay has changed. A lot. You wouldn’t know it to look at the typical supermarket ‘shelf set,’ but if you’re still looking at the category as one big mass of oaky, buttery, vaguely sweet white wines, you’re really missing out.

“If we were in a restaurant, I’d call today’s Chardonnay a ‘hand-sell,’ because it would take a little extra song and dance on my part to convince some people—namely, Euro-centric wine snobs like myself—to try it. I once had to be convinced myself, and I was, and continue to become more so with each vintage: A new generation of California (and Oregon) Chardonnays is showing that the New World can do minerality, freshness, and detail, too.” – Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier

I think Mr. Cauble’s take on American Chradonnay perfectly sums up the Rorick Heritage Vineyard (RHV) 2014, “right down to [its minerality, freshness and detail.” Here’s my two cents:

Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope winery – previously a punk musician, skateboard pro and animal healer. Followed by an intense interest in wine, a degree from UC Davis, and then working through a diverse set of wineries around the world – some super prestigious, others dedicated to large-scale production. At each winery, he encountered a different philosophy of making wines.

This led him eventually back to his native California and his own label. While I have not meant him, I am guessing  through my research that what we have on our hands is a rebel with a cause – a winemaker who loves the unique misfits, the longshots, the outsiders, the lost causes – and the unsung grapes or vineyards abandoned as not having a chance in this world.

RHV is located in Calaveras County in the Sierra Foothills of California. First planted in 1976, its limestone mother rock with schist soils combine with the 2000-feet elevation to create an Alpine environment for the vines.

If schist and limestone could have a flavor, it would probably be this Chardonnay – a Chablis-like lime zest crispness with a Riesling-like steely greenness, with kumquat and hints of aloe. The palate is lean but I think the word “detailed” really nails it – there is much mineral flavor to enjoy here, but without weight. The finish is very long but light and subtle. And yes, 2014 is current release. The winery holds it to develop depth, which it indeed has.

Rorick and his winery is a bit of a cult thing – not much wine is made and we didn’t get much of it, either. We have a small allocation, and it’s yours to enjoy.

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