2012 Bell Wine Cellars Chardonnay Yountville Napa Valley
 
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Bell Vineyards Marching To Far Niente's Drummer

Anthony Bell is a traditionalist. If you talk to the South African and revisit his 32-year stay in Napa Valley, you quickly come to understand the depth of his winemaking resolution. Bell marches to his own drummer, putting out some of the more distinctive wines in Napa Valley. When speaking of Bell Cabernet Sauvignon, most discussion centers around the storied low-yielding Clone 6. As to Chardonnay, Anthony admits to being a throwback, taking Napa Valley enthusiasts back to the days of Stony Hill, St. Clement and the inimitable Far Niente -- back to the days when Diacetyl wasn't king.


The Golden State's love affair with 'buttery' Chardonnay and a chemical compound called Diacetyl is well documented. The vast majority of California's Chardonnays are 'creamy,' a by-product of 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel. But in the superb 2012 growing season, Bell's Chardonnay stands apart, combining luscious apple/honey richness with almost Riesling-like vibrancy.


In case you forgot, here's the Chemistry 101. There are two fermentations that turn grape juice into wine. The first is alcoholic. The second is malolactic. Diacetyl is a compound, a by-product of both fermentations. When Chardonnay completes both fermentations, Diacetyl concentration increases, creating a 'buttery' sensation on the palate. In the hands of Steve Kistler, that's a good thing as your cold climate grapes already have plenty of acid. "But if you're growing Chardonnay on the warmer Napa Valley floor," Bell asserts, "all that butter turns to fat, and Chardonnay's structural walls come crumbling down."


If you're one of many who have been hammering us with requests for bargain coastal Chardonnays, do us a favor. Put your tool boxes away. Rarely do we go out on a limb for California Chardonnay if the winemaker's name isn't Ramey, Morlet or Tolmach. But today, we're doing just that.




Tasting Notes

2012 Bell Wine Cellars Chardonnay Yountville Napa Valley
"Pale golden color. Piercing aromas of ripe apple, pear and tropical fruit, laced with new wood vanilla. Plush and full-bodied on the attack, with excellent textural weight, the core is packed with ripe apple and honey, all bracketed by the brisk acidity that stems from arrested malolactic fermentation. Drink now for its youthful vibrancy or age for up to six years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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