The 2011 Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay is a single vineyard, single vineyard section (maybe), single Chardonnay grape clone wine, that just happens to list for $12.99. Nobles Vines is one of the many labels produced by Delicato Family Vineyards and the grapes are sourced from Block 46 of Delicato Family Vineyards 5,000 acre San Bernabe Vineyard in the San Bernabe sub AVA of the Monterey AVA inside the Central Coast AVA in California. The 446 has many features you rarely find in under $13 wine, 1) it is a single vineyard wine, 2) it is a single clone wine (Martini clone FPS 04), and 3) it is possibly a single block of the vineyard, Block 46 (the clone is Clone 4 and the Block is 46, hence the name 446 Chardonnay), the 2010 vintage mentions taking grapes from a total of 10 different vineyard sections, the 2011 info makes no mention of the 9 other sections. The Louis Martini FPS 04 Clone was propagated from vines originally grown in Burgundy, France in the 1950s. Earlier champions of Burgundy Chardonnay clones in California are Wente Vineyards (still in business) and Paul Masson ( the”sell no wine before its time” guy). A clone is when you take a cutting from an original vine and graft it to root stock without pollination, the resulting vine is a genetic duplicate. There isn’t just one type of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Malbec, etc., there are all sorts of variations with each type exhibiting, slight, but important differences from the next. The job of the vineyard is to match the right varietal clone, with the right soil conditions and the right weather patterns, so that each section of the vineyard is producing at its fullest potential. All the things I am talking about here are attributes you discuss with $75 wines, not $12.99 Chardonnays. The grapes were pressed in individual lots and the lots were fermented in stainless steel (if the acidity was optimal) or oak casks (if the acidity needed adjustment). Half of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, a winemaking process for both White and Red wine that softens the acidity in wine and fermented “on lees” (the bits of dead yeast were left in the tanks, imparting added depth, a nutty flavor and creaminess depending on how often the lees are stirred). The alcohol content is 13.5%. That is an impressive resume for an exceptionally well priced wine.
The color is a crystal clear harvest wheat yellow. The nose is delicate and pretty, pineapple mixed with dried apricots, apple with a hint of honey and grapefruit and pear. The Chardonnay produced in Burgundy, France is all about balance and length, while California Chardonnay, especially value Chardonnay, features lush fruit and citrus flavor along with a bit of balance. The 446 Chardonnay favors the Burgundy side of things. There is a soft, silky mouthfeel and the flavor starts with melon and tangerine, pear and grapefruit, some juicy peach and pineapple. The mid palate adds a slight brush of slate (just enough to add a little texture), a little orange blossom honey and creme brulee with apricot on top. A solid dose of acidity runs thru the entire body of the wine and helps the wine linger for a very long time.
The 446 Chardonnay is an attractive wine, very familiar, but not the same old thing, well made and well balanced, but still delicious, priced with the wines sourced from grapes grown thru out California, but from a single vineyard. The French prize “Terrior” in their wines, which basically translates to the effects weather and soil have on grapes grown in one particular location, the characteristics of a wine can change with grapes grown just 20 feet away, but on land that has a different exposure to the sun, different drainage and slightly different soil. “Terroir” is the reason Bordeaux and Burgundy wines (you can add Napa to the list, too) can cost as much as they do. “Terrior” almost never applies to value California wine, but for $12.99 (even less on sale) you can experience the “Terrior” of Chardonnay grown in the San Bernabe sub AVA of the Monterey AVA and that is an extremely reasonable price of admission.