2012 Osso Anna Chardonnay Napa Valley
 
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Jay Buoncristiani "Jay-Bone" and The Robert Young Clone

In 2001, Donald Hess surprised many in Napa Valley when he promoted a 26-year-old working in his cellars to collaborate with winemaker Randle Johnson in overseeing the production of Hess Collection. The young enologist, Jay Buoncristiani, would waste no time crafting a big, rich, buttery Chardonnay that would stun famed California wine critic James Laube at Wine Spectator.

The 2004 Hess Collection Chardonnay would earn 93 points from Laube and would finish #36 in the magazine's 2006 list of the Top 100 Wines of the Year. With the spotlight on young Buoncristiani, "Jay-Bone" had every opportunity to toot his own horn. But true to his self-effacing form, Jay minimized the importance of his cellar work, and instead pointed to the vineyard from which the wine was drawn, and even more importantly, its clonal makeup.

If you sit down with Steve Kistler, Dan Goldfield, David Ramey or Jay Buoncristiani, and get any of the top Chardonnay-makers in California to start talking about the Old Wente clone, make sure you've got plenty of time on your hands. Nearly every great Chardonnay on the North Coast (Goldfield's Rued, Kistler's Dutton Ranch, Ramey's Platt) are drawn from cool-climate vineyards that eke a few tons per acre of Wente clone small-berry clusters, often strewn with sweet "shot berries" — or what the Burgundians call millerandages.

The most famous of the Old Wente clones was pioneered by a third-generation farmer from Geyserville, who realized in the mid-1960s that there might be more money in farming wine grapes than prunes. The farmer, who passed away in June 2009 at the age of 90, was the brilliant Robert Young.

In a 2012 vintage that would prove to be one of the most extraordinary in recent Napa history, a campaign that Chuck Wagner of Caymus famously called "a watershed year in Napa Valley," Jay Buoncristiani purchased a few tons of Chardonnay from famed viticulturist Salvador Ramos of Jaeger Vineyards — and fashioned two Robert Young clone Chardonnays, each offering a different take on the Wente clone.

We tasted both wines side by side with the Buoncristiani brothers at Farmstead in St. Helena last week. The first was the big, buttery 2012 Buoncristiani Chardonnay, a full-throttle, barrel-fermented New World Chardonnay that would earn 93 points from Wine Spectator.

The second was a more restrained take on Robert Young's clone. Vinified half in stainless-steel tanks and half in two-year-old French barrels, the Buoncristianis' 2012 Osso Anna Chardonnay is far crisper and more Mâconnais in style, a bottle with sneaky richness, length and Old World nerve.

Pale-golden to the rim with luscious aromas of ripe apple and pear, tinged with anise, wonderfully energetic and mineral. Rich and plush on the attack, showing off all the inherent opulence of the small-berry, Robert Young clone, infused with a high-toned mix of lemon curd, pear and quince, finishing with excellent vibrancy and crispness. Drink now for its youthful zestiness, or do as most collectors have done with Jay Buoncristiani's Chardonnays since 2004, and lay this one down for 4-6 years in a cool cellar.



Tasting Notes

2012 Osso Anna Chardonnay Napa Valley
"Pale-golden to the rim with luscious aromas of ripe apple and pear, tinged with anise, wonderfully energetic and mineral. Rich and plush on the attack, showing off all the inherent opulence of the small-berry, Robert Young clone, infused with a high-toned mix of lemon curd, pear and quince, finishing with excellent vibrancy and crispness. Drink now for its youthful zestiness, or do as most collectors have done with Jay Buoncristiani's Chardonnays since 2004, and lay this one down for 4-6 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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