2010 Nugan Estate Chardonnay Frasca's Lane Vineyard King Valley
Expert Rating
ST 90 points
(Read the full review below)
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Frasca's  Lane Vineyard $100 Bacon and Eggs on 57th St.

The first vintage we tasted was back in 2007, just before the International Wine Cellar lured collectors to Frasca's Lane. Steve Tanzer and Josh Raynolds are not only the most accomplished Chardonnay critics in the world, they're far and away the harshest. So when Raynolds dropped a glowing 92pt review on Nugan's prized single vineyard prize winner, comparing a $20 bottle from Down Under to "a $75 Chassagne-Montrachet" -- the Nugan importer had a tiger by the tail.

At the time, WineAccess was just getting started. Our buying muscle would hardly merit a cameo on the homepage of bodybuilder.com. So we did what we were always obliged to do back then. First, we said all the right things over breakfast, congratulating the importer on his sourcing prowess. Then we bought him two frothy cappuccinos in the city, waiting patiently before he 'blessed us' with the 60 cases that would soon go out at $19.99 -- just a touch under suggested retail.

The following year, Tanzer and Raynolds came out nearly as strongly on the 2006 Frasca's Lane Chardonnay. Again, the importer held all the cards, so we picked up the tab not just for the cappuccino, but the sausage and eggs, finally squeezing out 1200 bottles -- all of which disappeared by noon one Tuesday morning.

In each of the next two years, that screenplay was replayed. Again and again, Tanzer lavished juicy adjectives on Frasca's Lane -- far more Chassagne-like than anything Down Under -- punctuating each review with a 90 point score. But as WineAccess tripled in size each year, the balance of power at our importer breakfast meetings was shifting. In year one, we went Dutch. On the second, he was finally quick to pick up the tab.

So, six weeks ago, on the eve of the release of a 2010 Nugan Frasca's Lane Chardonnay that may well outshine the inaugural 2005 with its rare combo of ripe apple and Burgundian lushness perfectly married with high elevation crispness, we booked another breakfast. This time, however, the script would be quite different.

How to explain it? Why is this one the only Down Under Chardonnay ever to grace the pages of WineAccess? Frasca's Lane Vineyard is set in the southern portion of King Valley, over 2,500 feet in elevation, midway between the valley floor and the "Australian Alps." Typically, when a wine writer describes an Australian Chardonnay as being akin to a premier cru white Burgundy, it's a head-scratcher. But when you see the spot, feel and come to understand the cool-climate combination of brisk evenings and warm summer days -- that mesmerizing combo of New World opulence and Burgundian balance comes into precious perspective.

On August 8, we met at the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street -- just for giggles. We ordered much the same bacon and eggs we'd gobbled up two years before at the NJ diner -- only this time, somehow, the price on the menu began with a three. We listened as the importer waxed eloquent about the 2010 Nugan Frasca's Lane Chardonnay that we too believed trumped the stunning 2005. He reminded us of still another Tanzer 90pt score, told us that just 400 cases would be making it stateside, then broke into a broad, hopeful, professional smile as we turned to economics. Then we dropped the bomb the importer must have known was coming.

Google is something else. First we researched the online Australian pricing for the 2010 Frasca's Lane Chardonnay. We checked the winery's own price, then retailers in Sydney. We called a freight broker friend, and added in the cost of shipping Nugan's greatest Chardonnay stateside. We buffered in a few bucks for a refrigerated container, taxes, and trucking from the port to Sonoma. We even tacked on a small, if tidy, margin for the guy who was about to pick up the $100 breakfast tab at the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street. Finally, we cut to the chase.

Tasting Notes

2010 Nugan Estate Chardonnay Frasca's Lane Vineyard King Valley
"Light yellow-gold. Intense aromas of pear, nectarine, honey and orange zest, with smoky oak notes and mounting spiciness. Rich and fleshy but there's surprising energy to the orchard fruit and candied citrus flavors. Closes on a gently sweet note, with clinging citrus notes and excellent persistence."
90 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

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