We sat down with Winemaker Nicole Marchesi to talk about 2011 Far Niente Chardonnay, which we have just released. Although the 2012 harvest is over, that doesn’t mean the work is finished. Nicole and her team still have much to do before spending the holidays with family and heading out on well-deserved vacations. We grabbed a few moments with her to taste and talk about this newest vintage of Far Niente Chardonnay.
How would you describe the 2011 Chardonnay?
This is classic Far Niente Chardonnay. It’s got melon and citrus, toasted oak notes, a little bit of nuttiness, a bit of minerality to it. It walks that fine line between rich and delicate. The wine is mouthfilling, yet elegant. It’s got silkiness and a clean, refreshing finish. I think that the oak and fruit have already integrated really well.
Far Niente Chardonnays are known for their ability to age. How will this wine develop over time?
As this Chardonnay ages, you will get less of the overtly fruity notes and more of the richer aromas. The palate will become rounder with time. The acidity of the wine is going to allow this Chardonnay to age a long time and not fall apart. Few Napa Valley Chardonnays can do this.
What stands out in your mind about harvesting or making the 2011 Chardonnay?
2011 presented a cool growing season, which is great for Chardonnay. We achieved good flavor development at lower sugar levels. There was some rain that year, but the way we responded in the vineyards and winery was spot on.
This is more of a European vintage in terms of the cooler weather and ripeness levels. Even so, I think the 2011 Far Niente Chardonnay is totally in line with the Far Niente style, but it also represents the vintage really well. The wine shows our ability to deal with Mother Nature’s curve balls.
What makes Far Niente Chardonnay distinctive?
What makes it special aromatically is that there is a lovely balance of oak and fruit. The wine is nuanced and really well knit together in the nose.
And then I think that the oiliness of the palate is something that makes Far Niente Chardonnay special. Part of that is the Charlemagne clone, which is exclusive to Far Niente, and grows in our vineyards. Having a blend of various vineyards and various clones adds to its complexity.
[Watch Larry Maguire share the story of the Charlemagne clone here.]
What food do you like to enjoy with Far Niente Chardonnay?
Oftentimes in our house, we start with it while we’re making dinner—we’ll have some nice cheese and Chardonnay and then have a Cabernet with dinner. But if we’re having a lighter meal, such as salmon or a vegetarian dish, we’ll enjoy Far Niente Chardonnay at dinner. We also love Chardonnay with a lighter pork dish, brined and grilled, with no heavy sauces that would compete with the wine.
Do you have any special food and wine holiday traditions?
We have an interesting one that we bring Far Niente Chardonnay and Dolce to. My mother-in-law’s family was from Hungary, so we have a traditional Hungarian Christmas Eve dinner. We start with a tangy sauerkraut and mushroom dumpling soup. We have Chardonnay with that—and with the fish course. This is fish that has been cooked and then suspended in plain gelatin, like aspic. My mother-in-law uses Chilean sea bass, so it’s really nice fish. (My husband says when he was little his grandmother would use a whole fish with the head and everything intact.)
And then we have this dish called kapusnik. That’s cabbage cake, and that is my responsibility. I shred heads of cabbage, and I salt it and squeeze the water out. And then I cook the cabbage with onion in two cubes of butter. And then I basically stir cabbage for an hour on the stove, until it gets soft and melty. Then I put in a bunch of black pepper and put the cabbage mixture between bread dough and bake it. It’s served with melted butter over it. It’s so good, so good!
And there are some traditional desserts that we have. Usually, we break out Dolce to celebrate because the whole family is together. Then, we all sing Christmas carols. It’s a wonderful pastime that’s different than my family’s tradition.
Kedves egészségére! (Here’s to your health!)
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