The Carpe Diem Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2015 is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vineyards in the Anderson Valley AVA (about 100 miles north of San Francisco) which runs along the Pacific Coast of Mendocino County in Northern California. Carpe Diem is a joint project between the winemakers of Roederer Estate (the Champagne House’s California holdings in Mendocino) who handle Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (both sourced in Anderson Valley) and Christian Moueix (Dominus Estate) who handles the Cabernet Sauvignon out of Napa Valley. The Carpe Diem is slightly out of CWF’s normal price range of under $20, but this was found as an “end of bin” sale wine and selling for $12.99 ($22.99 list), so this is a cheap wine tip…look for close-outs and end of bin sales, they don’t last long, but great bargains can be had. The Carpe Diem is a great change of pace, normally a value wines technical notes has more information about how great your life is going to be because your drinking their wine and little actual wine info. The Carpe Diem Chardonnay is offers a wealth of information, for instance they use natural yeast to start fermentation, that means the yeast floating naturally in the air and clinging to the skin of the grapes is what ferments the grape juice, no commercial yeast added. The use of oak with value-priced wine has become so vague that it has become a guessing game, what does aged “on” oak actually mean? They pour the juice “on” a barrel, over a barrel, under a barrel? I sort of know why they are not explicit, but trying to hide what they are doing is a little fishy. With the Carpe Diem they tell you the name of the cooperage that made the barrels, no did we or didn’t we. The barrel regimen is 74% of the Chardonnay was fermented in 15% new barrel, 15% one use barrel, and 70% older barrels, 26% was fermented in stainless steel tanks, all the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. After fermentation the wine was aged an additional 9 months (in both barrel and tank) “on lees“. The Chardonnay grape clones were 2 types of Burgundy clones, the main California Chardonnay clone in use today is the Wente clone, created over 100 years ago by Wente Vineyards, it is the clone you think of when drinking California Chardonnay. The Carpe Diem Chardonnay is not going that direction, this will be Burgundian in style. The alcohol content is a not so Burgundian, 14.2%.
The color is pale golden yellow. The nose is not your usual 12 buck fruity and bright California Chardonnay, here the nose is complicated, there are distinct barrel aromas, not just the typical vanilla and spice, slightly smokey, the scent isn’t just apple, it’s a spiced apple pastry, there is Meyer lemon, exotic spice, flowers, the nose is worth the price of the bottle. This is a Chardonnay that you may wish to decant, if you pop the top and pour, you will be missing out on about half the flavor this Chardonnay has to offer. It tastes of crème brûlée and pear, mixed with not so tart ripe apple and melon. The mid-palate adds a little salty cashew, a mix of spice and lime, and lemon. The acidity is really, really good, if you tell a winemaker from Burgundy that their wine has terrific balanced acidity and great length, they are happy, that’s exactly what they were going for. The Carpe Diem has balanced acidity and great length. This Chardonnay tastes better with each sip.
I have heard that the wines that win gold in wine judging competitions are the wines that are in a different style than the other wines in its category, the similar wines all cancel each other out and the wine that was different stands out from the crowd. I write about value priced wine and in California that means bright, juicy, and fruit forward and the Carpe Diem Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2015 is a major stand-out for me. I know it is kind of sacrilege, but I always preferred California Chardonnay to French Burgundy Chardonnay and it turns out that what I really like is an extremely well-made mix of the two. The Carpe Diem has tons of flavor (which Chardonnay from Burgundy in this price range often lack), with excellent structure, this is an excellent Chardonnay.