Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018

Deep gold color; melon, citrus, yellow apple, honeysuckle, gardenia on the nose; lemon-lime, apricot, fig, honeydew melon, apple, dash of vanilla on the palate.

Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018

Off-dry; vivid fruit framed by good acidity and oak. Aged 10 months sur lie in French oak, 50% new. Smooth, focused, silky, touch of oiliness. Butter notes—surprising since there is no malolactic fermentation. Excellent structure and length, with pleasing lemon-lime and acidity on the finish. Classic Far Niente style—bold for a chard. The oiliness from mid-palate to finish is particularly enchanting and delicious. This wine just slides down your throat; no back-of-the-throat finishing burn; 14.3% ABV.

John Benson founded Far Niente (Italian for “without a care”) in 1885. Benson was the uncle of famed impressionist painter Winslow Homer. Noted architect Hamden McIntyre designed the winery building. Constructed against a hillside, Far Niente is a gravity-flow operation, no need for pumping of juice.

Far Niente operated as a winery until Prohibition in 1919. It was abandoned and fell into disrepair until Gil Nickel purchased the winery and vineyards in 1979, beginning a three-year effort at restoration and rehabilitation. Wine production resumed in 1982. The winery focuses only on cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. In 1998, a bottle of Far Neinte Sweet Muscat 1886 was discovered in a private cellar. The bottle retains its original label and capsule and is believed to be the oldest intact bottle of California wine in existence. Far Niente’s sister wineries include Dolce, Nickel & Nickel, and EnRoute.

Far Niente in disrepair after Prohibition
Far Niente winery today

Built on a hillside, wine caves were intended to be part of the original winery. They did not materialize until the restoration in 1980 when Alf Burtleson dug a 60-foot wine cave, the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the 20th century. The caves were expanded over the years and today encompass some 40,000 square feet and house more than 2,500 French oak barrels.

Thirteen acres of beautifully landscaped gardens surround the winery. The gardens include thousands of southern azaleas that bloom each spring. Likely the largest single planting of azaleas on the West Coast, they can be seen from a mile away on Highway 29. The gardens were a natural for Gil Nickel, who with his brother, John, ran the family’s Greenleaf Nursery in Oklahoma, which today is the second-largest privately held commercial nursery in the U.S.

Far Niente gardens

The winery has practiced sustainable agriculture for many years. The website notes the winery strives “to be ecologically friendly in all aspects of operations at our wineries. In 2008, Far Niente went solar in a revolutionary way with our Floatovoltaic™ system, becoming the first in the world to float a significant, grid-connected solar installation. Along with sister winery Nickel & Nickel, we are solar powered, net-zero users of electricity who annually produce more energy than we consume. All our vineyards are organically farmed; vineyard irrigation and frost protection use collected process water from winery operations. Lastly, we continue to recycle extensively at all our wineries.”

Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018 is rich, balanced, elegant, delicious. Fruit forward, and such wonderful fruit. Classic Far Niente style. Rich and bold. Deftly done oak. Portmanteau of Old World and New World styles. Age-worthy. Pair with shellfish in cream sauce; chicken Alfredo; poultry in general; fish pan-fried in butter; blackened salmon; pork; vegetarian fare. This also is wonderful as a solo-sipper thanks to its richness and slight oiliness. $50-70

Far Niete website with several informative videos; worth a visit

Far Niente winemaker Nicole Marchesi
Far Niente interior
Far Niente vineyard
Far Niente vines
Far Niente caves
Far Niente floating solar panels