Monday, January 20, 2014

2007 Benziger Sangiacomo Vineyard chardonnay

The distinct chardonnay aroma -- the words "smell" and "nose" both seem wrong to me -- of bananas and maybe some sort of tropical flower, and caramel -- remember the scene in The Last Emperor, when the deranged, beautiful young Chinese empress eats an orchid at the Japanese embassy reception? -- then the taste and the mouthwatering acidity of pineapple; and the full but not gooey body of a fine chardonnay, a chardonnay that is not all banana candy and an oak plank. You keep on sipping and smacking your lips and trying to decide what you taste more of, the tartness or the acidity or the caramel or the lush but not overripe tropic fruit. I think the winemakers would call all of this balance.

The words Sangiacomo Family Vineyard on the label open up an interesting window into the California wine industry, indeed any wine industry anywhere. The novice asks (if he thinks of it) who are all these people, and how do they make wine? One way is for a winery like Benziger to not only grow its own grapes to make wine, but also to buy some grapes from another family farm entirely. In the present case, Benziger is a client of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, and one of many clients at that. Steele, La Crema, and Acacia are just a few others that you might see fairly regularly on wine store shelves. The Sangiacomos used to grow fruit, until choosing to make a switch to grapes in the 1980s.

Smart move. Good wine.

And fairly affordable. Retail, about $15.

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