2010 Chad Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
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Chad A Chardonnay Outtake on Sonoma Coast

We'd heard about this offer for the better part of five months. Rarely had Chad been so animated in describing a coastal Chardonnay. But the more we listened, the more compelling we found the young winemaker's logic.

"You call them the Gang of Five. And you're right. When it comes to Chardonnay, few hold a candle to the Morlet brothers, John Kongsgaard, David Ramey and Steve Kistler. On one hand, these are the best Chardonnays on Sonoma Coast, but on the other, Chardonnay is a brand name game. As great as the Gang's wines are, if you take away their names, prices aren't the same. That was my position at the bargaining table."

Every year, Chad explained, the Gang makes hundreds of barrels of Chardonnay, much of it drawn from the Old Wente Clone, grown on the cool Goldridge hillsides of the coast. "The berries are small. Acids are firm. The fruit is fantastic. The cellar work is like 3-star cuisine." Chad went on. "The blends are precise. New barrels. Neutral cooperage. High toast. Medium toast. Different barrel makers. Different forests. Every year, inevitably, a few barrels get kicked out, and don't make the blend." Chad calls those barrels "outtakes." But when it comes to the Gang of Five, he added, "their castoffs blow away the $35/bottle competition."

On September 12, we drove down from St. Helena to meet Chad at Richard Reddington's new trattoria in Yountville. Chad was already seated when we arrived. Two bottles were on the table, one uncorked and cold, the other stretching its legs in the bullpen. Both bore a familiar label, though this time, instead of Pinot Noir or Cabernet, it was Chardonnay.

Over Reddington's delicious white cheese pizza -- sprinkled with arugula, shaved garlic and oregano, and drizzled with cold press olive oil -- Chad recounted the story of the Chardonnay deal that died a thousand deaths before finally sporting this 2010 Chad Sonoma Coast label. Then we turned all of our attention to the wine itself and the story of the "outtake" didn't seem to matter.

Pale green/gold to the edge, the nose was of ripe apple and pear, laced with apricot pit, splashed with the wet stone minerality that so defines these brilliant 2010s. Richly honed on the attack, infused with highwire apple/honey crispness, bracketed by riveting Burgundian tension, Chad's NDA wouldn't allow him to disclose the name of the Gang of Five winemaker. But, by the time we ordered the Redd Wood roasted chicken and popped bottle number 2, we needed no help solving that puzzle.

Tasting Notes

2010 Chad Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
"Pale gold to the edge. Aromas of ripe apple and pear, laced with apricot pit, splashed with the stunning vibrancy that so defines the brilliant 2010s. Richly honed on the attack, infused with wound-up apple/honey crispness, bracketed by riveting Burgundian tension. Signature effort. Drink now for its primary fruit crispness or age for 3-5 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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