2012 Babcock Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Barbara County
 
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Babcock Vineyards "Dierberg Cream"

We first met Bryan Babcock in the early 1980s, after tasting an Au Bon Climat Babcock Vineyards Chardonnay that would prove to be one of the more unforgettable whites of its time. We spent two hours with young Babcock, traipsing the vineyard set on light sandy soils outside of Lompoc that would so mesmerize the likes of Jim Clendenen and Adam Tolmach. The skies were turquoise blue, yet the mercury barely touched 75 degrees. Bryan explained the topography of the hills, how the mountains run east-west instead of north-south, and usher the cool air off the Pacific through the canyon.

The growing seasons on Babcock's Sta. Rita Hills are almost impossibly long, with harvest often delayed until late October. Yields are tiny, berries small and sweet and clusters often strewn with Burgundian millerandages. Babcock Vineyards Chardonnays are often ageless, impervious to oxidation. Even after up to 18 months in French wood, the wines remained tightly wound, almost Riesling-like out of the gate, ready for a two-decade run for the roses.

In mid-summer of 2012 — a vintage that may never be forgotten on the coast — cognizant of the stunning crop to come, Bryan's gears began to turn. Since the release of Robert Parker's back-to-back 93-point Dierberg Vineyard Chardonnays, Babcock had become enchanted with Jim Dierberg's meticulously farmed hillside just a few miles east of Lompoc.

"My Chardonnay is always wound up," Bryan told us at La Super-Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara (if you go, stay clear of the green sauce!). "It needs oxygen, plenty of time in barrel and in bottle. But the Dierberg Chardonnay is sort of the opposite: In its youth, the Chardonnay has great weight and plushness. Given how the harvest was shaping up, it seemed like 2012 was made for marrying the two." In July 2013, Babcock called Dierberg to see what might be available. An hour later, the deal was cut.

Babcock conducted exhaustive blending sessions over two months before bottling. So as to conserve the lush purity of the Dierberg fruit, all but 5 percent was fermented in stainless steel. The more sinewed Babcock Chardonnay — the same as what would be bottled under Babcock's tiny production of Top Cream — was entirely barrel-fermented, half in new French cooperage. The marriage of Dierberg and Top Cream would make for the finest Babcock Santa Barbara Chardonnay since the late 1990s. Bryan calls it "Dierberg Cream."

The 2012 Babcock Chardonnay Santa Barbara County is a stunner. Brilliant light-gold to the rim with piercing, saline-tinged aromas of honeysuckle, ripe apple and pear, lightly laced with new-wood cedar. Rich, broad and mouth-filling on the attack, with marvelous high-toned-density and weight. Fine layers of apple, pear and honey slowly peel away after a couple hours in the glass. Drink now-2018.



Tasting Notes

2012 Babcock Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Barbara County
"The 2012 Babcock Chardonnay Santa Barbara County is a stunner. Brilliant light-gold to the rim with piercing, saline-tinged aromas of honeysuckle, ripe apple and pear, lightly laced with new-wood cedar. Rich, broad and mouth filling on the attack, with marvelous high-toned-density and weight. Fine layers of apple, pear and honey slowly peel away after a couple hours in the glass. An exquisite marriage of two of the more talked-about Chardonnay vineyards on the Santa Barbara coast, expertly blended by the inimitable Bryan Babcock. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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