The Chardonnays of La Follette

It’s not often that I find myself overly excited about a new release of California Chardonnay. Sure, there are slews of great bottlings in the Golden State, but I have a hard time recalling the last time I was actively excited about popping the corks and tucking into the juice inside.

These ones, however, piqued my interest even before I sampled them. Start with the pedigree: The wines are crafted by the highly regarded Greg La Follette, whose resume includes working alongside Andre Tchelistcheff at BV and making the much sought-after Pinot Noirs of Flowers, among others. His partners in the venture are Pete and Terri Kight, owners of Tandem and Quivira.

The goal for La Follette wines is fairly straightforward: The crafting of site-specific wines that are, despite their pedigree and expressiveness, affordable. As these three show, they’re succeeding brilliantly.

The nose here is quite Burgundian, the almost smoky-mineral notes lending it a terroir-driven sense of rooting that is nothing short of stunning. These are joined by deep-souled lemon verbena, scorched earth, and kaffir lime. On the palate, flavors of lemon creme, crunchy green apple, and lemongrass are silky and giving, yet structured by beautiful acidity and anchored by warm pastry, apricot brioche, warm walnuts and hazelnuts, and vanilla that is balanced and elegant. The finish here is almost savory, a touch briny, especially as it rolls on. An absolutely gorgeous wine; very highly recommended. Drink now - 2022.

Lush, with butter and grilled corn aromas mingling with white licorice and perfumed vanilla pod, as well as a twirl of smoke in the background. On the palate, flavors of sweet-cream butter, vanilla creme brulee, grilled pineapple with creme anglaise, and charry oak are giving and immediately appealing. Drink now - 2018.

La Follette Chardonnay 2009, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge
A breathtaking nose, so to speak, with notes of white-blossomed flowers, apricot, preserved lemon, lemon pastry creme, and sweet red apple. Flavors of sweet lemon pie, spice, butterscotch, flowers, a fresh orange orchard, and white tea. Beautiful, exuberant, and exceptionally exciting. Drink now - 2018.