Sunday, February 19, 2012

Don't Overlook This Chardonnay

Landmark Overlook Chardonnay
  A few weeks ago when I was out of town I received a familiar looking package. This particular bottle came from a winery located at the Northern tip of Sonoma’s Highway 12.

Landmark Vineyards, in operation since 1974 has been one of the bright stars in the Sonoma wine culture. The winery initially started in Windsor, California, and was relocated in 1989 to a state-of-the-art facility at the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain to get away from the urban sprawl. The facility is built in a beautiful Spanish style, and offers gorgeous grounds to its visitors.

In 1993 world renowned enologist Helen Turley came to work with then winemaker Eric Stern. The winery quickly gained world acclaim and has seen the Wine Spectator top 100 many times since. Their flagship wine, the Overlook Chardonnay has graced the list seven times since 1997.

The current winemaker, Greg Statch, works closely with Eric Stern as the winemaker emeritus. Statch, who was originally a journalist went back to school to become a winemaker, graduating from Fresno state in 2001. His specialty is clearly Pinot Noir, and he has brought a great amount of acclaim to the winery for his skill with this tough grape. He also works as Pinot Master at nearby Kanzler Vineyards.

Together, the winemakers crush, ferment, and bottle approximately 20,000 cases of wine each year at the winery. The secret to their success is careful shopping for grapes throughout the California Coast. Their mantra is “Your wine is only as good as your vineyards”. Their vineyard sources include names like Heintz, Rodgers Creek, Flocchini, Sangiacomo, and Bien Nacido.

The grapes are harvested early in the morning and delivered to the crush pad for a process of whole cluster pressing. They then rack the juice into French Oak and allow indiginous yeasts to ferment the juice. The wine spends 8-10 months in oak. A second, malolactic, fermentation softens the wine afterwards. The wine is then blended from the various lots and a special portion is set aside to sit in barrels for an additional time of up to 13 months. This is the juice that is used to create their Overlook label Chardonnay.

I received the 2010 Overlook label wine in its burgundy style brown glass bottle. It has a look and heft of a quality bottle of wine. The wine poured from the glass with a beautiful fresh straw color. Soft fresh bread notes, lemon, vanilla, and peach fill the nose. The flavors are creamy with peaches and warm toast mixed with baking spices. The finish was very balanced. Clean and yet softly lingering.

I served this wine with a baked chicken dish that I make with cream, bread crumbs, and pickled cherries. The wine paired perfectly. I would serve it with any poultry dish.

The question people always have from this region when I write up a Californian wine is “where can I get it?”. My answer is that it is full distribution in many areas around the northwest. If all goes well it should be available in our area. You can also get the wine direct through the winery. Contact them at


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