Foxen, “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” Chardonnay
Foxen, “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” Chardonnay

Foxen, “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” Chardonnay

California, United States 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$43.00
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Foxen, “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” Chardonnay

Here’s a great example of how much California Chardonnay has evolved over the years—it is quite a long way from “buttery,” with enough citrusy acidity and minerality to prompt one influential critic to dub it “sculpted.” Founded in 1985 by Bill Wathen and Dick Doré, Foxen is an extremely reliable source of true “cool climate” Californian wines—especially Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that cede nothing to their Burgundian contemporaries.

Then, of course, there’s the vineyard designation on this bottle: Bien Nacido. If California had “Grand Cru” designations, this historic site would surely be one. Once part of a larger Mexican Land Grant called Rancho Tepusquet, the 200-acre Bien Nacido was acquired in 1969 by the Miller family, who Steve saw it as a perfect home for wine grapes. Santa Maria Valley is technically classified as a “Winkler Region 1B.” This is as cold, in terms of average temperature, as Champagne, the Mosel Valley in Germany, and Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. With its sandy shale soils, it is, as one description puts it, a “maritime-influenced desert.” Understanding this, the Millers planted the vineyard with the first certified virus-free clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from UC Davis in 1973. Syrah followed soon after. 

Bien Nacido proudly claims to be the United States’ most influential single-vineyard source, with more than 160 producers over 44 years having used “Bien Nacido” on their labels. Only top vineyards in Burgundy have been designated more, and I am certain that has something to do with their 700-year history. Despite its size (200 acres) and multitude of producers citing the vineyard name on labels, the Millers are nevertheless extremely discerning about who gets access to their coveted fruit.

In the glass, it’s a deep yellow-gold with hints of silver and green, with bright aromas of yellow apple, Meyer lemon, white flowers, fresh cream, acacia honey, and wet stones. There’s plenty of freshness but no sharp edges, and it could easily be mistaken for something serious from the Côte de Beaune. Although it is delicious to drink now (give it about 30 minutes of air first), it has some legitimate aging potential as well, promising to broaden and deepen without becoming flabby or oxidative. Serve it in all-purpose white wine stems at 50 degrees with some fresh, briny oysters, sushi, or, in the spirit of its place, a classic Monterey Bay-style cioppino.
Foxen, “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” Chardonnay

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