Notes From The Cellar

2009 Nicholson Ranch Cuvee Natalie Estate Reserve Chardonnay

Steve Paulo

A Bread-and-Butter Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

I spent some time in Sonoma Valley this last weekend, for the first time. To atone for the sin of not sooner exploring this excellent region, which lies a hop and a skip (no jump necessary) from my front door, let me share with you one of the gems I found while there.

grapes in a bucket.

I’ve grown fond of Chardonnay. Far too many California Chardonnays are boring, one-note affairs that people still seem to buy in droves, but which I just can’t get excited about. This is fine; to each their own. But that’s why I get so giddy when I do find a Chardonnay I really like.

Nicholson Ranch Winery lies along the Carneros Highway, smack between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It seems to this impartial observer that, like a lot of the wineries operating in the Carneros area, Nicholson Ranch identifies more with Sonoma, and less with Napa.

It works for them, that’s for sure. As much as I love the Napa Valley—and I do—I have always felt it was a little more corporate, a little more polished, and frankly, a little more snobby than its sister to the west. Sonoma winemakers have always come off to more like farmers than their Napa counterparts.

This isn’t bagging on Napa—in fact, I more regularly prefer their style of juice to Sonoma—but it does speak to the look, feel, and attitude of Nicholson Ranch Winery. There are horses here; there are llamas there. On entering the tasting room, you feel like you’re stepping into the welcoming living room of a farmhouse.

To sum up: you should go. It’s a beautiful little place, nestled up against the southern end of the Mayacamas. But enough about the winery. How’s the wine?

Splendid. Really quite good. Tasty.

In the glass, the 2009 Cuvee Natalie has a relatively dark, golden center, though it clears completely to the edge. On the nose is a beautiful combination of fruit and non-fruit white wine notes: pear, apple, the dry summer scent of straw, a hint of oak, and baking spices. A touch of golden delicious here, a soupçon of cinnamon there.

On the palate, there is more of the same. There’s also a wonderful balance to everything, with enough complexity to not bore me. A final note: I wrote in my notebook that this tasted like bread and butter, and I think that holds true. Silky, buttery, but also with a yeasty, shortbread quality to it.

It’s quite tasty, and while not perfect, it is easy to recommend.

Price Point: $48
Verdict: B+

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