While at the Grand Tasting at Heron Hill Winery on day one of TasteCamp, one vineyard presented something that you can only taste and purchase at the vineyard. That vineyard is Casa Larga, in Fairport, NY on Keuka Lake.
It is called the Chardonnay Trio. It is a trio of their estate grown chardonnay in three types of barrels. American Oak, French Oak and Hungarian Oak. Interesting concept and a great way to introduce people to the effects that barrel ageing have on the chardonnay grape.
The grapes were harvested at the same time, from the same site, sorted and pressed at the same time and then were place in to 3 different types of brand new oak barrels. The juice was fermented sur lies style for 15 months. To experience this educational piece you can visit the vineyard or you can order it on-line. The three bottles cost $75.
Here are my tasting notes: 2007 American Oak Chardonnay: Butter and toasty with some apple. Spice and wood. Creamy. The 2007 Hungarian Oak Chardonnay: More fruit than the last, more apple and melon, lighter body. woodsy. The 2007 French Oak Chardonnay: Buttery and toasty. Overwhelming. Spice. Some apple, not much else. Seemed to have a bit more acidity. A touch of herbaceousness.
In conclusion, I really give thumbs up to Casa Larga for doing this and offering this. For those of you who don’t know the effects that barrel aging have on Chardonnay, this is a great tool to try out for yourself. For those experienced tasters, like those at TasteCamp, I am not sure how this went over. I know that some were not a fan of this and others were glad they missed this presentation. But for first timers and for educational sessions and for those who like oaked chardonnay, than this is fantastic.
However, I do prefer my chardonnay to be in the style of little or no oak aging. I would have loved to have seen Casa Larga add their Stainless Steel Fermented Chardonnay there to see what that was like and to taste the fruit instead of the oak. By oaking chardonnay, you do run the risk of beating the fruit out of it. As is the case here. To show the versatility and the importance of the Chardonnay grape, to taste a completely unoaked chardonnay would have done wonders in my opinion and give folks the chance to really see how they like their chardonnay.
While most Finger Lakes Vineyards showcase Riesling, Casa Larga has decided to put their neck on the line and showcase chardonnay. While they are showcasing chardonnay, they are showcasing the oak and the different types of oak, in my opinion. The fruit is taking a backseat in this presentation.
Kudos for Casa Larga for taking this risk and investing time, money and effort to this program. I just wish I had a sample of the steel fermented Chardonnay. By the way, my choice of the oaked chardonnay was the Hungarian.