Medium gold color; peach, pear, Meyer lemon, yellow apple, spice, vanilla, oak on the nose and palate.
Dry; no tannins; gentle acidity. Rich, smooth, creamy in the mouth with significant oakiness. Medium body. Native yeast fermentation in barrel; 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in French oak. Bottled unfiltered. The oak and creaminess mostly muffle the alcohol on the extended finish. This is classic oak and alcohol Napa chard. 15.1% ABV
There is much less information about the making of this wine than previous efforts, although the results mostly track with my notes on previous vintages. Michael Beaulac is the new winemaker, which may be the reason for reticence. Chalk Hill is noted for its ripeness, powerful fruitiness, and alcohol level. Beaulac maintains that tradition. The grapes come from nine different clones on the estate, including Chalk Hill’s own proprietary clone (Clone 97).
Chalk Hill has long focused on superior chardonnay. Led by Mark Lingenfelder, the winery spent more than 35 years conducting clonal trials in California, mapping and replanting Chalk Hill’s complex terroir “to ensure the best site/clonal growing combination, ensuring that each vineyard block produces outstanding fruit.” Chalk Hill consistently achieves their vision, scoring in the 90s among vino illuminati. If you like this style, this is a clear go-to wine.
Chalk Hill began in 1972 when Fred Furth flew his plane over the Russian River Valley and viewed a natural amphitheater in the hills of eastern Sonoma. He recognized it as an ideal site for a world-class vineyard and created an iconic Sonoma vineyard and winery. The property is more than 1,300 acres with 300 acres in vineyards. The remainder is wilderness, the winery, a hospitality center, and a culinary garden.
Bill Foley is the owner today, purchasing the property in 2010. He is the owner of the National Hockey League Vegas Golden Knights, an attorney, a graduate of West Point, a former captain in the U.S. Air Force, and chairman or board member of major financial and insurance companies. Today, Foley and his wife Carol live in Northern California part-time and are active philanthropists for many causes, especially those in support of veterans and children’s education.
Courtney Foley, youngest daughter of Bill and Carol Foley, was the longtime head of winemaking and likely remains a major player, although she is no longer as prominent on the webpage. Like her father, she is an attorney, but she also studied enology and viticulture at both Napa Valley College and Fresno State University. Choosing vineyards over courtrooms, Courtney worked under winemaker Leslie Renaud at Lincourt and Foley Estates in Santa Barbara County, then again with Renaud at Roth Estate in Healdsburg before joining Chalk Hill.
Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill Appellation 2021 is juicy, fruit-driven, lush and plush opulent example of the classic big fruit, butter, oak, and alcohol chardonnay. But all this is done with some decorum, producing a quality chardonnay of the style, not a cartoon chard where oak is slathered on to mask flaws. Very consistent vintage-to-vintage. I only had to lightly edit my review of the 2020. If you enjoy big fruit in an oak frame with creaminess, butter, and alcohol playing significant supporting roles in the ensemble—and very many people do—this wine is for you. Well distributed, so you should be able to find and enjoy.
Pair with simply seasoned chicken—baked, broiled, fried; pork; rich fish—salmon, cod, halibut; shellfish; creamy soups; pastas with white sauces; vegetarian fare; movie theatre popcorn. Cheese—gruyère, cheddar, bleu cheese, camembert, sheep’s milk cheese. $35-45