Terroir is a monster of a topic, and during a recent online tasting, our friends at Chalk Hill took a deep dive into the question of how micro-terroirs impact the winery’s chardonnay, offering three different bottlings from the 2018 vintage, each pulled from a different part of the 1285 acres that make up Chalk Hill’s estate, 120 acres of which are planted to chardonnay. (The lattermost two wines are part of Chalk Hill’s “Soil Series,” designed to give consumers the ability to take a deep dive into terroir.)
The winemaking How do these bottlings vary? Let’s taste and consider.
2018 Chalk Hill Felta Chardonnay – Grown in an ashy, gravelly type of soil; Felta has the lowest pH (highest acidity) of all of Chalk Hill’s chardonnays. This is Chalk Hill’s most acidic chardonnay in the series, but that fact belies the rich body of the wine, which is effusive up front with notes of honeydew, coconut, and vanilla. Never woody, there’s a curious salinity here that feels more as if it’s been drawn from the briny depths of the sea than bearing traditional slate-like mineral notes, its creamy texture giving the wine an uncommon, almost buttery richness with a finish reminscent of nougat and showcasing a reprise of coconut. A- / $75
2018 Chalk Hill Wright Creek Chardonnay – This block is located just 16 feet away from Felta’s, but the soil is different: Arbuckle is a deeper, well-drained soil with a terraced arrangement. The wine is less ripe than Felta, with notes closer to grapefruit and lemon than melon. While the fruit is restrained, it’s got a classic structure that offers elements of dried flowers, wet slate, and a more wood-forward character that brings vanilla and spice into focus on the finish. This one takes a bit of time to come out of its shell, so plan accordingly. A- / $75
2018 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay – This is a blend made from grapes grown across Chalk Hill’s property. Bold and creamy, it’s about as iconic as California chardonnay gets. Notes of nougat, coconut, and spice dance with a bright lemon and green apple character that rolls across the supple body. Exquisitely balanced with citrus, pear, and saline notes, this really does showcase a “best of all worlds” of Chalk Hill’s blocks. A / $30