The 2011 Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay is sourced from vineyards in 34% Carneros AVA, 32% Russian River Valley AVA, 19% Alexander Valley AVA and 15% from the Sonoma Coast AVA in northern California. Simi was founded in 1876. Most of this Chardonnay was fermented in oak barrels, with a small portion fermented in stainless steel tanks. 40% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation (changes tart tasting acid to more rounded softer tasting acid). Then 85% of this Chardonnay was then aged in French and American oak barrels for 8 months, mostly used barrels were used, but 20% of the French oak barrels were new and 10% of the American oak barrels were new. The remaining 15% of the Chardonnay was aged in stainless steel vats. Chardonnay is a winemakers wine, it seems each winery has their own take on what style of Chardonnay they should produce. There are many different procedures that can potentially go into the making of Chardonnay, the oak barrel program or lack of an oak program, malolactic fermentation, yes , no or partly, on lees or not on lees. When looking for a Chardonnay that is made in a style you prefer, who made the wine is more important than where the grapes were grown. The alcohol content is 13.5%. I found this wine on sale for $9.99, but it is usually found for 3 bucks on either side of $15. The 2012 vintage has just been released and you may be able to find the 2011 at a reduced price, since 2012 is a badass vintage.
The color is a glistening extra virgin olive oil yellow. The nose is apple, orange blossom honey, melon, a touch of spice, vanilla and soft floral edge. This is a Chardonnay with excellent length and balance and the oak brings out some very interesting flavors. It starts with a mix of lemon, lime and peach, then toasted coconut, vanilla creme and tart Valencia orange. The mid palate shows a soft brush of slate, dried apricot and Basque pear. The finish is full, vibrant and lengthy.
I drink a lot of inexpensive Chardonnay for CWF and most of them are pretty good, but they don’t taste like the Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay. The Simi Chardonnay is the culmination of 140 years of winemaking experience, this is what they believe a Sonoma County Chardonnay should taste like. I often hear from beginning wine drinkers that they do not like oaked Chardonnay and I always tell them that just because you had one or two oaked Chardonnays that they did not enjoy, does not mean much. There are so many variables in the production of Chardonnay that the presence of oak should not be the deciding factor. And if you refuse to drink oaked Chardonnay’s you will miss out on enjoying the lovely 2011 Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay.