2010 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast
Expert Rating
RP 92-94 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Joseph Phelps' Freestone Vineyards & 4.13 out of 5 stars! The Gang of Five...Becomes Six

There are few places on Sonoma's fog-laden coastline capable of challenging the best of Burgundy on the short list of the world's greatest Chardonnays. Almost all feature rare Goldridge soils, an ancient seabed of sandy loam that offers ample drainage, allowing roots to spider deep into the substrata. Each spot is cold and edgy, rarely topping 90 degrees on even the hottest of summer days, before plummeting into the 50s overnight. The berry size is small, and particularly when planted to the Wente Clone, clusters feature what nos amis in Puligny call millerandages -- small seedless berries with intense juicy concentration, filling in those cool climate broad shoulders with lemon/honey opulence.

We've written before about what we call the Gang of Five, the short list of California's most revered (and uber-scoring) names. That roll call begins with the slow to evolve cult classics from Steve Kistler. Then there are the full throttle, lemon drop extravaganzas from Mark Aubert, Luc Morlet and Peter Michael. Last, but surely not least, the chiseled single-vineyard masterworks from the inimitable David Ramey.

But when we first learned that Napa Valley icon Joseph Phelps had pulled the trigger on a 100-acre dairy farm on the foggy hillsides above Freestone, we gave no thought to the Gang -- as we, like most others, weren't thinking Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir market was piping hot, fueled by the Sideways craze, and as Dan Goldfield had already shown, there's no better place on the coast for Pinot than Freestone. But when we learned that Phelps's winemaking team -- tempted by the extended growing season on what may be the edgiest planting on Sonoma Coast -- had cajoled the maker of "Insignia" into planting 20 of those acres of Chardonnay, we knew where Phelps's sights were set.

In the astonishing 2010 vintage, these tightly spaced vines threw the most fantastic of coming out parties. In that wonderfully cool growing season, magically punctuated by a Giants World Series run, Freestone's Chardonnay enjoyed a whopping 125 days of hang time, bringing clusters to perfect physiological ripeness at just 22.5 Brix, setting the stage for one of the most richly textured, electrifyingly mineral bottles of the year.

In what would be The Wine Advocate's highest rated under-$40 Chardonnay of the vintage, these obsessively farmed Phelps plantings eked out just three tons per acre of tight, small berry clusters, many of which were littered with priceless millerandages. Parker would call it "gorgeous," adding, "focus, delineation and superb overall balance are the hallmarks here. This is a fabulous showing from Phelps," rating it 92-94 points, the equal of Luc Morlet's brilliant "Coup de Coeur" and Aubert's "Hyde Vineyard" -- at less than half the price!


Tasting Notes

2010 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast
"The 2010 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards is gorgeous. Subtle hints of oak frame expressive white stone fruits, citrus and floral notes in this impeccable, layered Chardonnay. Focus, delineation and superb overall balance are the hallmarks here. This is a fabulous showing from Phelps. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018."
92-94 points -- Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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