A Chardonnay for the Chardonnay-Hater
Introducing Mer Soleil; the Chardonnay for the non-Chardonnay drinker.
Too many people these days have been turned off of Chardonnay because of California’s eagerness to create the biggest, oakiest, butteriest version of the once docile grape. Traditional French methods call for lightly oaked, well balanced version, that has completed malolactic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation takes the tart malic acid and converts into a softer, rounder and fuller lactic acid. This process is reserved mainly for Chardonnays which are typically grown in cooler climates and that tend to be overly acidic otherwise. Many feel that California wine makers have been trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” with regards to who can make the butteriest wine – the buttery, round mouthfeel being the result of the malolactic process.
California wine makers also tend to harvest the Chardonnay wine grapes at a riper stage and at a higher Brix level (a measurement of sugar levels). This gives the wines higher alcohol levels, since sugar ferments into alcohol.
The use of solely new oak barrels contributes to the higher sensation of oak, rather than a second or third time use of barrels. A mix of new and used barrels at different stages gives an impression of lighter oak.
Extreme use of all these factors have created a monster – a very big and often not a food friendly wine.
It is refreshing then, to hear a descriptions of the Mer Soleil Chardonnay as wine drinkers are presented a lighter and more balanced style of California Chardonnay. I have heard wine drinkers state “Mer Soleil is wonderful, and I don’t usually like Chardonnay.” Mer Soleil translates literally into “Sea Sun” in French. The grapes are grown in Monterey County, a coastal growing region; cool and foggy. The frequent fog keeps the grapes cooler and promotes a slower ripening process and a more Burgundian style Chardonnay. The foothills of the Sierra de Salinas mountain range, the home of Mer Soleil, is the coolest growing region in all of California.
As if this Chardonnay couldn’t get much better with regards to terrior, Chuck Wagner, winemaker, went ahead and planted 400 Meyer lemon trees around his vineyard. Some believe the bees are responsible for the cross pollination of the lemon trees and the grape vines. Mer Soleil boasts a delightful and unexpected lemon citrus flavor, but is balanced with light oak, a round palate and sun-ripened flavors unique to California.
2007 Mer Soleil Chardonnay – $30