The NV Sparkling Wine Grand Reserve is the first release in Racines' sparkling wine project, done in collaboration with Rodolphe Peters. The first thing about the Grand Reserve readers need to know is that it is a serious wine that greatly benefits from aeration. In fact, it only improved over the several days I followed it in bottle. My initial impression, however, was far less positive. So patience is key.
Rich, ample and creamy with air, the Grand Reserve shows the rich, phenolic, mineral side of Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay to great effect. Moreover, it has all the elements that are so often missing in the new wave of California sparking wines, namely a fine mousse, good mid-palate depth and a long finish. The Racines sparkling wine is a work in progress, but the debut release is hugely promising.
These new releases from Etienne de Montille’s Racines kick off with the first sparkling wine made in collaboration with Rodolphe Péters. The new Grande Reserve, all 2018 in its first release, will gradually become a multi-vintage blend in the style of Péters’ Cuvée De Réserve Champagne. A series of vineyard designate bottlings will join the portfolio, stating with 2018s from Bentrock and Sanford & Benedict slated to be released in a few years’ time. The 2020 Chardonnays are quite good. They show plenty of character, along with the richness of the year. I found the Pinots fairly impenetrable following their bottling a few months ago and look forward to tasting them again at a later date, when hopefully they are a bit more accessible.
Drink 2022 - 2027
Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com (August 2022)
A blend of 50% from the 2020 vintage and 50% reserve wines from the 2018 and 2019 vintages. Sourced from Wenzlau Family, Sanford & Benedict, La Rinconada and Bentrock vineyards. Whole-bunch pressed and aged on the lees in bottle for 30 months. No fining, no filtration. Disgorged February 2023. Dosage 4 g/l. 11,032 bottles made.
Light yellow-gold with medium bubbles. Aromas of white flowers, lemon pith and sea air. A voluminous mousse delivers wonderfully ethereal flavours of seawater, lemon pith, herbs and wet chalkboard. Flavours of seawater and herbs and a hint of lemon peel and lemon juice linger in the finish. Crystalline and beautiful. There's a silkiness here that is very charming.
Drink 2023 - 2033
Alder Yarrow, JancisRobinson.com (November 2023)
This is the best American sparkling wine I've ever tasted. The 2019 vintage base also includes 25% reserve wines from the 2017 and 2018 harvests. This Grand Reserve Chardonnay made from the cool Sta Rita Hills is crafted with a Champagne pedigree, and it shows. This Blanc de Blancs from across renowned Sta Rita Hills vineyards has undeniable Old World charm and sophistication. The aromatics boast ample toasted biscuit notes and great yeasty complexity from the 30 months on lees. The palate has a fantastic depth of fruit, spiced pear, cardamom, nutmeg and bruised apples. There is a subtlety of savoury biscuits and hints of almond cream. Elegant, yet bold and wildly delicious.
Drink 2023 - 2033
Matthew Luczy, Decanter.com (August 2023)
About this WINE
Burgundian winemakers Étienne de Montille and Brian Sieve joined with Champagne’s Rodolphe Peters to form Racines, in California’s Santa Rita Hills.
Their aim was to locate a perfect terroir outside of France: one where they could utilise produce stellar Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, outside the constrictions of their respective French regions.
The cool climate of the Santa Rita Hills provided the perfect terroir for this new venture, given the team’s multi-generational expertise in hand-crafting Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs of remarkable purity and elegance. While Santa Rita’s ocean-driven terroir shines through, these wines benefit hugely from being crafted with the technique and expertise of hundreds of years of Burgundian and Champagne winemaking.
Ultimate care is given to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, in order to coax out unique qualities. Whole-cluster fermentation is combined with pigéage throughout the Pinot Noir fermentation, to add spice to a burlier, weighted character. Chardonnay grapes are grown several miles from the ocean in ancient marine sea beds, to give the wines they create a real sense of energy, transparency and precision.
Santa Barbara County
At the foot of the Central Coast, just north of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara County reverberates with its Missionary past, although viticulture as we know didn't arrive here until the 1970s. Now there are 6,000 ha of world class Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.
While fog banks shape the season, together with a notable rainfall deficit between May & November, elevated terraces such as Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley AVA faciliate premium fruit growing. Santa Ynez Valley AVA enjoys similar trait, though cooler still;
Chardonnay is often seen as the king of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.