2003 WineSmith Napa Valley Chardonnay, Student Vineyard Napa Valley College 750ml 2-Pack
Bright straw-green color, shocking for a wine of this age. Well-bloomed champagne-like sur-lees yeastiness and classic lemon oil of ripe cool climate chardonnay. The mouth is plump and structured but finishes with lively mineral energy. When most people taste this wine, they think it’s pretty high acid, and it is indeed quite lively and palate-cleansing, great with seafood. But that’s not acidity, it’s minerality, and whatever it is, it sure makes wines age a long time.
2004 WineSmith Napa Valley Faux Chablis, Student Vineyard, Napa Valley College 750ml 2-Pack
The last year WineSmith tried to sell this stuff as Napa Valley Chardonnay was 2003. After that, they only sold it as “Faux Chablis.” The wine is a little denser than the 2003 and more minerally. The nose has not “bloomed” yet, and does not yet show the yeastiness or open fruit expression. If the 2003 is a flower in full bloom, this is still a bud. In the mouth there is an edge of steely hardness that needs time to soften. Winemaker Clark Smith cannot see it covering the distance to where the 2003 is in just one year; it probably needs around three years to open completely. Still, it has its uses today. It’s wonderful with half-shell oysters or sashimi, and it cuts into Thai food with vigor and mirth.
If chatter about “minerality,” “graceful longevity,” “true Chardonnay aromas” and “classic Eurocentric balance” gets you off, then this is one of the most compelling must-taste wines I have ever made. Yet I cannot sell this stuff at Safeway to save my life! Why? Because it’s a ten-year-old Chardonnay just barely ready to drink, which everyone assumes is stone-dead over-the-hill, right?
~ Clark smith