Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay 2012, California
Cost: $21-23
I t’s not difficult to find a big, bold, buttery California Chardonnay. That’s one of the wines that made California famous.
But finding a big, oaked Chardonnay that pairs well with food is the problem.
Many of the old-style oaky Chardonnays are such a mouthful of flavor that they overpower the food. Not so with the Landmark Overlook Chardonnay.
It’s made in the rich, classic California style, despite the growing popularity of Chards that see only stainless steel. It’s a beautiful gold color in the glass with interesting aromas of grapefruit, melon and lemongrass.
The palate swims with complex flavors of peach and lively citrus. It is a fun, refreshing wine to drink with or without food. But with food it really comes alive.
Landmark calls itself a negociant, selecting the best from from Sonoma in the north to Santa Barbara in the south for this wine. This is generally how winemakers in Burgundy operate, picking grapes from throughout the region to come up with an interesting blend.
This vintage includes grapes from 22 vineyards, some of which have worked with Landmark for decades. Combining grapes from such a wide geographic area adds to the complexity of the wine, giving the wine different flavors and nuances.
After the grapes are picked, each lot is lightly whole cluster pressed, allowed to settle for a day and placed into 100 percent French oak barrels where it spontaneously ferments without the addition of cultured yeasts. The barrels are stirred twice a month to round out the wine and build texture. The wine spends 10 months in French oak.
The 2013 vintage should be released soon, and it should be similar to the 2012. Sometimes I like to store wine for several months before tasting it to see what a little time will do for the taste. This wine clearly improved, and I expect it to continue to improve for another year or two.
Winery: The gorgeous winery and tasting room sits at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The winery moved there in 1989 because urban sprawl crowded it out of its original location in Windsor, California, where it began in 1974.
Their signature wine, the Overlook Chardonnay, has appeared in the Wine Spectator Top 100 seven times since 1997. Winemaker Eric Stern started collaborating with world-renowned consultant Helen Turley (who grew up in Augusta) in 1993, and the reputation of the winery took off.
Greg Stach is the current winemaker and he has been making spectacular Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs for more than 10 years. The winery also produces single-vineyard Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Syrah and a GSM blend. The winery’s philosophy is to begin with great grapes and then manipulate them as little as possible.
Steel Plow Estate wines use organic farming practices and are pesticide free. On Saturdays the tasting room offers free horse drawn carriage vineyard tours. There also are two small cottages for rent. The winery offers picnic lunches with reservations.
Landmark Overlook Chardonnay paired well with crab legs.
Landmark Overlook Chardonnay paired well with crab legs.
Goes with: My wife Teri and I drank this with some friends while we ate crab legs, which proved to be a spectacular pairing. Buttery Chardonnay is just made to go with succulent crab legs dunked in melted butter.
The Overlook Chardonnay also would pair well with whole roasted chicken rubbed with rosemary and lemon zest, turkey, grilled red snapper, sashimi, butternut squash ravioli, some asian dishes and summer salads.
Serve chilled.

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