The two vintages of Chardonnay I tasted come from the Jos. Belli Vineyard in Russian River. The 2015 Chardonnay Jos. Belli Vineyards was made from small yields, and according to Dick Arrowood, it is one of the top three vintages in his 50 years of experience. This wine offers loads of peach, honeysuckle, delicate apricot, caramelized citrus and apple blossom in a full-bodied, rich, discreetly oaked style. It is long, promising and super-concentrated. If this is an example of just how strong many 2015s will be, we’re in for another treat from Northern California. - Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate, Issue #223, March 2016
Our Chardonnay is grown by Joseph Belli, a close friend and longtime business associate of Richard’s. Joe has planted his grapes next to his home, a few miles south of Healdsburg on the western end of the Russian River Valley. The vineyard is set just past the edge of the valley floor, where the land starts to lift-up into rolling hills. These steep, terraced hillsides provide excellent drainage for the vines, reducing the water available to the roots, which in turn produces tiny berries with intense flavor. Since the vineyard faces the east, the vines receive full sunlight in the morning and early afternoon, while being protected from the more intense late afternoon sun. We use two clones of Chardonnay from the Belli ranch in our blend: Rued, a musqué selection of Chardonnay that contributes vibrant tropical aromatics, and Dijon, which delivers a classic Chardonnay profile rich in minerality and fruit flavors.
Coming off significant rain falls in Northern California following a five-year draught, reservoirs, ground water and soil were replenished. The early 2017 growing season was perfect for wine grapes and the weather was dry with eventual warm spurts in August & September, setting up a normal paced early harvest. Just about ten tons of the grapes were hand-picked between August 30 & September 1, 2017. October’s wildfires in Sonoma luckily did not adversely affect our vineyards and winery.
The nose on this wine opens with a bright burst of honeysuckle fading into gardenia, followed closely by a hint of lemon rind. Stay with the glass for a moment, and you will find the floral components make way for a rich aroma of baked pears and light pastry crust, with just a trace of cinnamon and oats.
Take a sip, and the first thing you will notice the incredibly dense mouthfeel of this wine, rich and palate-filling, held up by a bright band of acidity that makes this wine luscious rather than flabby. Give it a moment, and you will quickly discover a gentle tempest of tree fruit, apples and pears opening onto nectarines and just a touch apricot. The finish is graceful and lengthy, fading into notes of toast and tart gooseberry.
This wine was fermented in French oak barrels and then aged in barrel for 11 months, where it underwent battonage (lees stirring) once per week. The 2017 Jos. Belli Chardonnay is completely accessible now, but if stored properly, it will continue to develop for at least the next handful of years.
March 4th, 2016
USA, Northern California: Part III - Focusing Primarily on Sonoma
2015 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Jos. Belli Vineyards