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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Elegant FEL Chardonnay Perfect Match For Crab Legs

FEL Chardonnay 2016, Anderson Valley

Cost: $31-33

Sometimes I get carried away when grocery shopping. I find all kinds of good deals and stock up on them.

That’s usually not a problem, but our freezer space had filled up and I figured it was time to start cooking some of those bargains before they had to be tossed out.

Luckily, one of the first things I pulled out was a bunch of Alaskan King Crab legs, which had been on sale at one of the grocery stores. They are easy to prepare and make a sumptuous meal. So, of course, we had to have an outstanding wine to match the food.

I chose the FEL Chardonnay, and I’m glad I did. It was incredible, rich and creamy with a lively acidity that makes it perfect for seafood. This is a bright, refreshing, elegant wine that pairs well with food, unlike some heavy chardonnays loaded with oak and butter flavors.

In the glass it is a gorgeous golden yellow, with enticing aromas of lemon zest and pineapple. With the first sip you find crisp, complex flavors like nectarine, lemon, peach, pear and butterscotch with a lively minerality. The finish is long and smooth.

This wine is a nice combination of a rich, full mouthfeel with the sharpness of crisp acidity. Winemaker Ryan Hodgins achieves this balance by fermenting the chardonnay in barrels, but using only neutral oak.

The grapes are a blend of several Heritage clones and Dijon selections grown in the famed estate Savoy Vineyard and the highly-regarded Ferrington Vineyard.

After harvest the grapes were whole cluster pressed and settled in a tank for 24 hours. The wine then went into the barrels for fermentation with only a limited malolactic fermentation allowed to keep the wine from getting too soft. The wine was aged sur lie with stirring for nine months.

Hodgins, who has been making wine in the cool-climate Anderson Valley for 12 years, called this vintage “spectacular.” The grapes were helped by abundant winter rains that recharged the valley soil after a three-year drought.

The Anderson Valley in Mendocino is about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, with day/night temperature swings of as much as 50 degrees. This helps ripen the grapes slowly, allowing for more complex flavors. Growing conditions often are compared to Burgundy and Alsace in Europe.

This is a good time to drink FEL wines because 2018 is the 35th anniversary of Anderson Valley as a recognized AVA.

Winery: FEL Wines is named after the owner’s mother, Florence Elsie Lede. Cliff Lede (lay-dee) also owns Lede Family Wines in the famous Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.

The Canadian-born Lede bought 60 acres in Stags Leap in 2002 after succeeding in the family construction business.

His first task was to replant the vineyards. Then with a bit of whimsey, he named each vineyard block after some of his favorite rock albums and songs. There are about four dozen rock blocks. So, one day they might be picking from “Pinball Wizard,” another from “Touch of Grey,” and another from “Purple Haze.”

Cliff Lede Wines concentrates on estate vineyards, including the flagship Poetry cabernet sauvignon, made from hillside vineyards.

Lede bought Breggo Cellars in Anderson Valley in 2009 and renamed it FEL Wines, in honor of his mother, a home winemaker who inspired his early interest in wine. Later he bought the Savoy vineyard from which the winery makes vineyard-specific chardonnay and pinot noir.

FEL produces outstanding Anderson Valley pinot noir and pinot gris, as well as the single-vineyard wines from Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast.

The FEL label also features a nod to Cliff’s mother, a drawing of a tulip opening up. Cliff says he remembers the emergence of tulips signifying the end of winter where he grew up in Alberta, Canada, bringing with it excited anticipation of warmer days ahead. The tulip is a tribute to Florence’s passion for gardening.

The Lede complex in Napa is a fun place to visit. I visited the sleek, modern facility a few years ago and enjoyed the reserve tasting room they call Backstage. Lede collects art, and part of his collection was displayed there.

The show included images from Stanley Mouse, who was most famous for producing concert posters and album covers for the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane. The winery is filled with huge windows and wooden beams, making for a spectacular setting to taste wine.

Lede has been a Bordeaux enthusiast for years, and with his estate wines he creates wines with Old World values linking the wine to the place where the grapes are grown.

“I love to build and create things,” Lede says. “After 25 years of wearing a suit every day, constructing plant sites, buildings and pipelines, it’s far more fun and rewarding to create something that offers people such pleasure, like wine.”
In 2005 the winery also opened the luxurious Poetry Inn, perched on a steep hillside on the eastern side of the property. Each of the five rooms has a breath-taking view of the valley. The rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces, private balconies and indoor and outdoor showers.

Michael loves crab legs and the FEL chardonnay was a particularly good match.

Goes with: We had this wonderful wine with Alaskan king crab legs, which for our family is always a big treat. Snow crab legs are good and more affordable, but when we get king crab, we get more meat for less work.

There is something about king crab meat that makes it a perfect pairing with rich chardonnay such as the FEL. I sprinkle the crab with lemon juice and dunk it in melted butter before eating it, and that combination of flavors just cries out for chardonnay. We added baked potatoes and a tossed salad to complete the meal.

Crab legs are easy to prepare because when you buy them they are already fully cooked. Just drop them in boiling water for a few minutes to warm them up and you are ready for a feast. I usually add Old Bay seasoning to the water to give the crab some zip.

It helps to have a seafood cracker tool, but you can get by with a good pair of kitchen shears. You can even use a pair of pliers from your toolbox. (Clean them well before using.)

This elegant wine would pair well with most fish and seafood dishes, roast chicken, fried chicken, pasta with a cream sauce and most cheeses.

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