Rich and superbly compact on the attack, not so much tropically infused as packed with lemon custard
From his rugged, windswept perch in the Santa Rita Hills, Greg Brewer crafts what many believe to be the coast’s most edgy and brilliant Chardonnays. He’s on the short list of California winemakers — Steve Kistler, the Morlet brothers, John Kongsgaard, and David Ramey — who earn top billing from Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer year after year. Brewer’s sensationally complex and sophisticated Chardonnays are about as close as the variety gets to Chassagne-Montrachet on this side of the Atlantic, and have led him to consistently outpoint the best of the best. You don’t get to that elite level without being a little … well, intense.
It’s a word that fits Greg Brewer’s personality to a T. Lean and wiry, intellectually minded, and highly verbal, he’s a former competitive cyclist who’s good at just about everything except sitting still. For years he’s been channeling his high-wire energy and unstoppable drive into extracting magnificently rich, suave, and cerebral wines from Burgundian grapes. In a 2010 profile, The Wall Street Journal captured Brewer’s essence in a quote: “I wanted to push the limits.”
Push he did with the 2012 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay 3D Sta. Rita Hills, riding the exquisite edge of ripeness without sacrificing a gram of electrifying acidity. The result? A terrifically wound-up coastal white that slowly peels away layers of high-toned citrus cloaks, revealing a luscious orchard-fruit core. Antonio Galloni offered up a glowing 92-point review, calling it a “deep, textured wine loaded with class, complexity and nuance.” Tanzer — the most revered and most severe Chardonnay critic in the world — followed suit with another 92-point score.
We knew about Brewer’s magic touch with the grape, and we knew about the advantageous geography of his site, with Sea Smoke to one side, Fe Ciega on the other. We were more than familiar with the fabulous 2012 vintage, whose mild daytime highs made for a marvelously extended growing season. But we still couldn’t quite wrap our minds around how he put the pieces together for this mouthwatering 2012 release, with its rich lemon curd acidity and briny minerality. During our last visit, Brewer offered to show us.
Next thing we knew we were standing at the edge of the 3D vineyard, 10 acres nestled between Lafond and Ampelos under a cloudless blue sky. “Take a deep breath,” Brewer said, and we inhaled a maritime breeze so brisk we could almost hear gulls cawing. “The site is west-facing, so you can feel the salt air coming at you. Ever go running on the beach, wet sand under your sneakers?” He bent down, scooped up some soil, and let it run through his fingers. “We’ve got sandy loam here, ocean-bottom sand mixed with clay deposits and diatomaceous earth — classic Santa Rita Hills salinity. Then you’ve got the clones we’re using, that give it this great breadth, pulling the wine across your palate with textural minerality and opening things up for this sharp beam of lemon acidity to cut right across your tongue. Everything just clicks.”
The 2012 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay 3D Sta. Rita Hills is glistening gold to the edge. Piercing aromatics of lemon curd and apricot pit, wound-up, with fine tension. Rich and superbly compact on the attack, not so much tropically infused as packed with lemon custard, weighty and remarkably dense, with the longest of cold maritime breeze finishes.
$64 on release — 38% off at WineAccess for $39.99 per bottle. Matching 92-point scores from Tanzer and Antonio Galloni. A deal serious Chardonnay collectors do NOT want to miss. Only 300 bottles.
Important note from the producer: To penetrate the wax bottle seal, simply imagine that the wax is not there and drive right through it with a waiter's style corkscrew. The seal should cleanly sever as it would if you attempted to cut through it with a knife. Warming the wax in the palm of your hand for a moment prior to opening is also helpful.
One word: Great !
Greg Brewer is the best Chardonnay maker south of Sonoma.
Not as good as some others at this price point. Nevertheless, it's a very good wine.
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