La Follette Chardonnay with crab cakes.
La Follette Chardonnay with crab cakes.

I f you tasted this wine and didn’t see the bottle, you would think it was a white Burgundy. That’s a good thing.

I love the style of whites made in Burgundy, lean and crisp and elegant, but with a lot of fruit flavor. Buttery Chardonnays are good, too, on the right occasion, but my favorites are the minerally, bright, crisp wines in the Burgundy style. More American producers are moving in that direction because of popular tastes.

The La Follette Chardonnay has all the best characteristics of the grape: aroma, body and long, smooth finish.

As the wine is poured you already get a whiff of the beautiful bouquet full of lemons, baked bread and tropical fruit. On the tongue it is a symphony of flavors: citrus, lemon pie, kiwi, nuts and a touch of minerality.

It is a wine of depth and character with a silky mouthfeel.

It’s no surprise this wine is made in the Burgundian style. Winemaker Steve La Follette loves to use grapes from cool weather sites, much like Burgundy. The Sangiacomo vineyard, where these grapes were grown, gets cool ocean breezes up the Petalulma Gap, allowing longer hang time and ripening for the grapes.

After pressing, the grapes were put into French oak barrels and aged on the lees for 10 months. The juice was fermented with native yeasts and the barrels stirred early and often to help bring out the flavor of the vineyard.

La Follette Chardonnay
La Follette Chardonnay

The current release of this wine is 2010, so it was interesting to note how rich and full this wine got with just a year of aging in my cellar. I think it would develop for at least another 2-3 years.

Serve it lightly chilled.

From: Sonoma Coast
Winery: La Follette is a small Sonoma County winery devoted to releasing wines that reflect their vineyard site and appellation. They produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in small lots from their favorite vineyards in California’s Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

After working at several prestigious wineries Greg La Follette founded Tandem wines in 2001 to produce small-lot Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He also has consulted on vineyard and winery projects around the world, including the new UC Davis teaching winery. 

In 2008, Greg met Pete and Terri Kight – proprietors of Quivira Vineyards & Winery in Dry Creek Valley – and saw an opportunity to partner, enabling him to have more time to focus on winemaking. Tandem was renamed La Follette, and Greg continued on as winemaker of the new winery.

La Follette wines showcase not only Greg’s skill with cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also the world-class Sonoma County and Mendocino County vineyards from which he sources.

On its website, La Follette says the winery represents the partners’ vision. “La Follette wines are about discovery: An emerging vineyard, an ancient winemaking technique, an unexpected note in the finished wine. They are also about focus, as grower and winemaker work together to produce wines that speak of their origins in an unwavering voice.”

Cost: $30
Year: 2009
Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this with crab cakes we bought from Fresh Market and pan fried at home. We also had hash browns, steamed beams and fresh carrots.

I love it when the pairings go well, and this one was superb. The crab cakes were nice and crisp on the outside with moist, juicy crab on the inside. I eat them with cocktail sauce.

The wine couldn’t have been better, with the lemon and fruit flavors complementing the juicy crab cakes and spicy sauce.

This would go well with many different seafood dishes, chicken, turkey, light soups and soft cheeses. It is a great food wine.

The La Follette website also has three recipes they recommend with this Chardonnay: “Just picked” Figs with bruleed mascarpone cream, grilled oysters with cilantro lime butter and chile shallot rings and Chardonnay chicken in the pot. All sound heavenly.

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