Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2014

Rich gold-yellow color; tropical fruits, melon on the nose; orange, melon, pineapple, fig on the palate.

Crisp, refreshing, fruit-forward; lush, rich levels of flavor; whisper of French oak; medium acidity (3.47 pH); minerality, some spice on a citrusy finish.

Talbott’s journey to quality, affordable wine took some twists and turns. Robb Talbott’s parents made their fortune as clothiers, particularly in high-end neckwear (that company, Robert Talbott Inc., continues to thrive), but the son also branched into vineyards and wine in 1982, planting his original Diamond T Estate vineyard on a cold Carmel Valley Mountain in spite of accepted wisdom the site’s soil-free, chalky shales on a 1,200 foot mountaintop were too challenging to ever succeed.

Talbotts embrace challenges, and Robb proceeded to establish the first vineyard by breaking Diamond T rocks with a sledgehammer. In 1994, Talbott added the legendary three-parcel Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Talbott winery today is located on the Sleepy Hollow property and harvests from both vineyards. Given climate, soil, and Robb’s passions, the winery focuses on pinot noir and chardonnay, the classic grapes of Burgundy.

Dan Karlsen is the winemaker. The son of a college professor, Dan put himself through school working as a plumber, carpenter, and electrician. Same time, he developed an interest in home brewing. After earning his degree, Dan worked for the Oregon Forest Service, then returned to California to work for Dry Creek Vineyard as a maintenance mechanic. Falling in love with winemaking, Dan worked his way into all aspects of the operation, moving on to Dehlinger Winery, then joined Claude Tattinger at the newly established Domaine Carneros, eventually becoming the winemaker and general manager at Chalone Winery, where he revitalized the winery’s pinot noir and chardonnay programs. He joined Talbott in 2007. At Talbott, Dan emphasizes sustainable practices in the vineyard, whole-cluster pressing, and an artisanal approach to both chardonnay and pinot noir that, according to the website fuses “the grace of cool-climate viticulture with the ripe, vibrant appeal of great California winemaking.”

Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2014 is rich, presents wonderfully delicious fruit, a nice balance of restrained oak, and behaved but appropriate acidity. Works well as a chardonnay solo-sipper, nice value. $18-23

Talbott Vineyards website

Other photos: Talbott winery; Talbott vineyard; Robb Talbott shows his grapes.