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October 201699 Lastly, the virtually perfect 2014 Chardonnay Cix Estate, planted with a Montrachet clone on Goldridge soils, again exhibits amazing intensity, notes of wet gravel interwoven with apple blossom, caramelized citrus, apricot, white peach and honeysuckle. It is full-bodied, multidimensional and a profound glass of Chardonnay. Mark Aubert continues to set the bar incredibly high for the world-class quality of his Burgundian-styled, remarkable Chardonnays, which come from relatively cool sites spread from Rutherford in Napa Valley to the far reaches of the Sonoma Coast. As I indicated last year, Aubert is at the top of his game, and it is hard to believe any Chardonnay winemaker in the world is turning out a half-dozen Chardonnays at this qualitative level year in and year out. He has had an incredible run of great success, after being mentored by none other than the reclusive and supremely talented Helen Turley when he took over the winemaking job at Peter Michael, then proceeded on to impressive sojourns at Colgin Estate as well as Tom Futo’s winery in Oakville. I have consistently bought these wines since his first vintages, and I’ve been truly amazed at how long they evolve and last. I tend to drink them all relatively young, but I’ve been shocked by his early vintages, such as 2004, that are still incredibly vibrant and youthful. At the end of the tasting at his winery just south of Calistoga, we tasted the 2004 Lauren Estate (which I rated 98) and 2005 Quarry Chardonnay (which I rated 92), and both were in remarkable condition, with an amazing amount of life still left in them. I recently had a 2008 Pinot Noir from a friend’s cellar, and it was exceptional as well, so here’s to Mark Aubert! His legacy is already complete, but he still hasn’t stopped pushing the envelope of quality. The 2015s are all in the 15-15.3% alcohol range, which is normal for his wines. They were all extremely long-fermenting and have turned out to be as spectacular as what he achieved in previous vintages such as 2012, 2013 and 2014. All of these vineyards are planted, for the most part, with either low-bearing old Wente clones of Chardonnay that he got from the Hyde Vineyard, a suitcase Montrachet clone that was pulled out of one of the Montrachet vineyards in France, and occasionally, some of the so-called Calera clone of Chardonnay, which is probably also a descendent of a Montrachet cutting. The 2014 Chardonnays have been on the market and were quickly sold out to the winery’s mailing list when offered earlier this year. I had a chance to taste these after Mark Aubert opened and decanted them three hours prior to my visit. This is a terrific vintage for Chardonnay, probably slightly superior to even the amazing 2013s, but that’s splitting hairs.
February 201694 Dense and racy in style, the 2014 Chardonnay CIX Vineyard is one of the more approachable wines in this lineup. Here the Montrachet clone gives a Chardonnay with good up-front intensity and plenty of power. Although attractive, the CIX doesn't quite have the complexity, nuance or persistence of the best wines in the range.