FEL Chardonnay 2017, Anderson Valley
M other’s Day is coming up in just a few weeks, so you need to think of something special for her. My suggestion for honoring your mom is cook a nice dinner and serve FEL Chardonnay.
FEL Wines is a tribute to the mother of Cliff Lede, who owns Lede Family Wines and FEL. The wine labels also bear a drawing of a tulip, Florence Elsie Lede’s favorite flower. Lede grew up in Alberta, Canada, and remembers tulips signifying the end of winter and the anticipation of warmer days ahead.
FEL Chardonnay ($31-33) is a great way to celebrate warmer days ahead, when you can sit on the porch and dream about summer while sipping the wine.
The wine is a gorgeous pale yellow in the glass, with concentrated aromas of green apple and lemon. Multiple flavors unfold on the palate with notes of pineapple, nectarine, lemon and peach. The finish is long and smooth, with some mineral notes and a crisp acidity.
This is a lively, elegant wine with a velvety mouthfeel. I liked sipping this wine by itself, but I loved the way it pairs with food. It is a great food wine because the tastes don’t compete with the food, they seem to enhance it.
Winemaker Ryan Hodgins gets this balance of creaminess and fresh acidity by fermenting the wine in barrels, but using only neutral oak.
This chardonnay is a blend of numerous Heritage clones and Dijon selections. Sources include their estate Savoy Vineyard, long recognized as a benchmark vineyard in Anderson Valley, and the vaunted Ferrington Vineyard.
The grapes were gently whole cluster pressed and sent to steel tanks, where the wine settled for 24 hours. Fermentation occurred in neutral French oak barrels to provide richness and body while showcasing the beautiful fruit. Limited malolactic fermentation was permitted to preserve the wine’s freshness and acidity. The wine was aged sur lie, without stirring, for 10 months.
Winery: Cliff Lede (lay-dee) has been in the wine business less than 20 years, but he has crafted some beautiful wines.
The FEL wines are actually from his second label, named after his mother, Florence Elsie Lede, a home winemaker who inspired Lede to start making wine after succeeding in the family construction business.
The Canadian-born Lede bought 60 acres in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley in 2002 and replanted the vineyards. As he planted he named each block after some of his favorite rock albums and songs, such as “Purple Haze,” “Touch of Grey” and “Pinball Wizard.”
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. Later he bought the Savoy vineyard from which the winery makes vineyard-specific chardonnay and pinot noir. The Anderson Valley wines include chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir. These cool climate regions are known for producing wines of bright acidity and considerable complexity.
The next time you visit California wine country I would recommend a visit to the Lede complex in Napa. It is a fun place to visit with a great tasting room.
The sleek, modern facility looks out into the vineyards, so you can see the vines while you sip. The reserve tasting room is called Backstage.
When I visited there several years ago, Lede had displayed part of his art collection.
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.
Goes with: We had this with a wonderful dish of shrimp and scallops sautéd with tomatoes and served over angel hair pasta. I have made this several different ways with various combinations of fish and herbs, but I think the simplest is the best.
I sauté the shrimp and scallops on medium high in a little olive oil and butter until the shrimp turn pink and the scallops get a little browned, about 2 minutes per side. Then I remove the seafood from the pan and lower the heat to medium. I add butter and minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
Then I turn the heat to medium high, add some white wine, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of herbs such as basil, oregano and Morton Nature’s Seasons. I cook that for about two minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to pick up the browned bits in the pan.
Then I return the seafood to the pan, add angel hair already boiled and stir it all up until it’s nice and hot and the tomatoes are popping open. You also can add chopped parsley for a little more flavor. Serve with a crusty bread and a tossed salad and you have a great meal.
I liked the way the citrus in the wine played off the seafood flavors and the rich mouthfeel mellowed out the spices in the dish.
This elegant wine also would pair well with most fish and seafood dishes, such as crab legs, fried shrimp, roast chicken, fried chicken, pasta with a cream sauce and most cheeses.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at email@example.com
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