This weekend I revisited a favorite Chardonnay, the 2014 Sandhi Bentrock. While white Burgundy is overwhelmingly where I turn, the 2014 Bentrock from the Pacific's wind-swept Santa Rita Hills delivers the whole package. This simply hits every mark for me: Precision, finesse, and downright deliciousness. There's no white wine in America that pulls me in with more excitement than the Bentrock Chardonnay.
Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr established two wineries in the Santa Rita Hills to tap the ultimate potential from this extreme, marginal climate within eyesight of the Pacific. The north-facing Bentrock vineyard lies on shale and diatomaceous soils, the sort that call to mind the chalky limestone in Meursault's higher elevation sites. This poor soil in Bentrock endows a great sense of minerality, but also naturally keeps yields low and concentration of fruit very high.
These nitrogen deficient soils have an interesting effect during fermentation, and without wandering too far down this path we can say that a lack of oxygen creates a reductive style of wine. In the most deft execution in Burgundy we may call this noble reduction.
Speaking about Bentrock and leaving out the name Jean-Marc Roulot is difficult for me. When you taste the wine you immediately sense the kindred spirit, with this magical reductive element meshing with spectacular grace and delicacy. Sashi and Raj are both close with the Meursault superstar, and countless visits between the three in both Santa Rita Hills and Meursault have left an indelible mark on the winemaking philosophy.
The interplay between fresh apple, white peach with the crushed rock, seashell component throughout is just mesmerizing. The finish hints at the faintest note of caramel carried through with awesome salinity, making this glass impossible to set down. Every element of the wine reaches out to different senses, still composed in a tightly-knit and beautifully balanced mold.
If one component of Bentrock stands out the most it's surely the quickness and ease in finishing the bottle - the ultimate attribute of greatness. Burgundian sensibilities may be deeply rooted here, but Bentrock is a testament to the heights that terroir-driven California Chardonnay can achieve.
2014 Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay
$89 per bottle.