2007 Landmark Vineyards Chardonnay Damaris Reserve Sonoma Coast
Sonoma's "Old School" Montrachet
When it comes to Chardonnay, Steve Tanzer and Josh Raynolds are old school. Tanzer has been traipsing through the vineyards and cellars of the Cote de Beaune for over 20 years and is widely considered to be the foremost expert on Chardonnays made from that most precious hillside. Listening to these guys talk about the cellars of Chassagne and Meursault, the ins and outs of vineyards and vinification, is almost as good as tasting the great wines from Lafon, Roulot and Ramonet.
Not surprisingly, Tanzer and Raynolds are tough on California's Chardonnays. For those from the Old School -- like us -- too many of these wines are over-the-top with too much alcohol and not enough nuance. It's as if winemakers know the wine they're going to make BEFORE the harvest! But there are a few exceptions, none more consistently remarkable than Eric Stern's Damaris Chardonnay at Landmark.
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Made largely from old vines at the historic Sangiacomo Vineyard in Carneros, in 2007, Stern nailed it, making one of the greatest wines of his 21 year career. Stern told us, "2007 wasn't just a good vintage. It was one of the greatest I've worked with. Cool and dry. A seemingly endless growing season. Great natural sugars, full blown flavors and stinging acidity. What else can you ask for?"
The 2007 Landmark "Damaris" Reserve Chardonnay is fabulously rich with a tight tropical fruit kernel, excellent minerality, and has a fantastically crisp finish. Raynolds called it "Chassagne-like," and indeed while the amazing 2007 Damaris Reserve has decidedly new school ripeness, the freshness and vibrancy are clearly of the old.
What makes Damaris so special? Part of it is the superb old vine fruit drawn from special blocks at Sangiacomo. Part is unquestionably this astounding Indian Summer vintage. But when you reflect on the incredible consistency of Stern's Damaris, you think back to what makes the Lafon's Chardonnay so unique, and are reminded of the importance of history. Eric has been working with this fruit for a long time, and the brilliant New Yorker who moved to California on a lark decades ago, has developed an artisanal knack for nurturing the nectar out of Sangiacomo. This time, after 20 years of 'practice,' he hit it out of the park.
2007 Landmark Vineyards Chardonnay Damaris Reserve Sonoma County
"($40) Green-gold. Powerful aromas of orchard fruits, orange, sweet butter, lily of the valley and smoky lees, plus a strong undercurrent of iodine; smells like a serious, old-school Chassagne-Montrachet. Round and fleshy, with deep, smoky pear, sweet citrus and licorice flavors and slow-building spiciness. The smoky and floral qualities resonate on the finish, which is impressively incisive and long."
93 points--Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
"Rich, unctuous and full-bodied, with tiers of ripe apricot, melon, fig and citrus flavors that are intense without being heavy, ending with a dash of smoky oak. Drink now through 2016. 2,000 cases made."
92 points--James Laube, Wine Spectator
"The light gold-colored 2007 Chardonnay Damaris Reserve is sourced from Sangiacomo (89%) and Lorenzo (11%). It exhibits a beautifully scented nose of honeysuckle, caramelized orange rind, peaches, apricots, and subtle background oak. Full-bodied with outstanding purity and richness as well as a nicely layered texture, this is a lovely effort from proprietors Mike and Mary Calhoun. It should drink well for 3-4 years given its acid profile. Winemaker Eric Stern judiciously uses wood as a complementary seasoning, which is evident in all these Chardonnays."
91 points--Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate