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.
The overall weather during the growing season in 2018 got off to a cool start and mid-summer weather was not overly hot either. An early weeklong September heat spike pushed sugar levels up then subsiding and eventually allowing for optimum ripeness. Harvest started two weeks later than the previous two years The quality of the fruit was exceptional. The grapes were hand-picked between September 6th & 12th, 2018.
The color of this wine is best described as pale straw with a slight tint of emerald green. The nose opens as a classic Chardonnay, with big aromas of pear and honeysuckle, accented with citrus zest and a tiny bit of flint. Stay with the glass a moment and you will note that the floral component opens up, delivering graceful notes of jasmine woven through with hints of butterscotch and oak.
The mouthfeel of this wine is supple and dense, balanced by a crisp, lively acidity. The palate opens with the fresh pear and citrus characters that define the Chardonnay grown at Belli vineyards. As you continue to taste, you will note that the fruit evolves an attractive tropical edge of papaya, blended with a tiny nuance of toasted oak and toffee. The palate leads to a delicate finish of baked apples, spice, and just a touch of honeydew melon.
This wine was fermented in French oak barrels and then aged in barrel for 11 months, where the wine completed malolactic fermentation. The 2018 Jos. Belli Chardonnay is completely accessible now, but if stored properly, it will continue to develop for at least the next decade.
March 4th, 2016
USA, Northern California: Part III - Focusing Primarily on Sonoma
2015 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Jos. Belli Vineyards