We had a chance to taste an incredible limited edition chardonnay recently.

When we looked down at the label we gasped... it was from California.

Longtime readers will know our distaste for the melted butter chardonnays from Napa.

We put them in the same “what were we thinking back in the 80s” category as mullets and parachute pants.

Yet, this chardonnay was different. Deep. Packed with flavor.

We peered closer at the label.

“Of course, the Sonoma Coast...”

But first, should you be worrying about sulfites? This week, resident expert Julien demystifies wine’s most misunderstood additive… why they’re everywhere (for one, sulfur occurs naturally in grapes)... sulfites’ double function… some legitimate concerns… historical alternatives (the Romans favored what?)... plus the modern, highly technical “natural” wines claiming to be sulfite-free…

Forget Napa... Head for the Coast (continued)

Heading north from San Francisco on the two-lane coastal highway 1. Past the fishing villages of Bodega Bay, redwoods and sycamores. The fog is often so heavy you slow to crawl while navigating the twists and turns that threaten to toss your car off a cliff. If the scenery seems familiar it was along this sleepy marine strip that Hitchcock filmed The Birds and John Carpenter shot The Fog.

Sonoma Coast, to the west of Sonoma proper, is California’s best kept secret. There, the heavy Northern California fog bathes the grapes for two to three hours each morning. Although you might think Sonoma too small to harbor more than one microclimate, the difference between east and west is stark enough that vines producing lackluster wines in the east have become great successes when transplanted on the coast.

Sonoma’s coastal fog

Heading north along the coast, you hit the town of Jenner, where the Russian River flows into the Pacific. Head inland to a series of high ridges where chardonnay vines (cloned from vines brought over from Burgundy by a German immigrant in 1912) grow above the cloud line. Grapes ripen very slowly on these misty ridges. The limited edition chardonnay we tasted was so complex, they recommend decanting it for at least an hour (we’d venture 40 minutes open, then 15 to 20 minutes in the fridge). What was this wine? More on that in a later missive...

Until next week,

The Wine Explorer

Bonner Private Wine Partnership