2011 Matthiasson Napa Valley Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay

Napa Valley Chardonnay has come a long way since the San Francisco 49ers tasted their first Super Bowl win and 49er fans were lambasted as Chardonnay-drinking, Brie-eating elitists. Napa Valley Chardonnay has had an image problem in contrast to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which continues to attract cult-like devotion and adulation. My hopes are high though, pleased with the direction some producers are taking in preserving freshness and retaining acidity in their Chardonnay. I point to the 2011 Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay from Matthiasson as an example of a Napa Valley white that doesn’t sacrifice on fruit yet maintains a prominent acid profile. On the palate, I taste an abundance of crunchy green-apple fruit flavors that finish with a loud snap. It’s remarkably Old-World in style, as the oak regimen is only texturally noticeable. So for those who crave that toasty, vanillan oak on their Chardonnay, Matthiasson’s 2011 Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay is probably not going to do it for you. On the other hand, if you delight in the crackly fruit crunch of just-picked tree fruit and want those flavors to persist unobstructed, than this Chardonnay from Matthiasson is just the ticket.

Steve Matthiasson is a highly sought-after viticulturist who has parlayed his love of the grape to include making his own wine. Steve makes a white blend called simply Napa Valley White Wine that has held a permanent spot on our shelves as each vintage brings something unique and delicious. Over the years, along with his wife Jill, Steve has been experimenting with varietals and making one-offs from fruit he farms. I had been desperate to find a Chardonnay in the sub-$25 range that doesn’t come from a faceless, mass-production winery – not as easy to find as you’d think. So when I stumbled upon Steve’s Napa Valley Chardonnay I was obviously overjoyed. Linda Vista Vineyard is located literally behind their home and is farmed by Steve. To retain the freshness and zest of the cool 2011 harvest, Steve fermented the Chardonnay in neutral barrel and opted to prevent malolactic fermentation. He also left half the wine undisturbed in barrel and the other half got stirred only once for creaminess. Included in San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2012, The 2011 Linda Vista Chardonnay is a must with succulent sea creatures. Is it still crab season ’cause I’d love to wash down some cracked crab with this crackly Chardonnay? Way high on the Yum-meter!

I don’t know where I’ll be watching the Super Bowl yet, lots of fun options to consider. I am surprised to find myself feeling deeply nostalgic the last few weeks as I fondly remember the first 49er Super Bowl win. I’ll never forget the way strangers were embracing each other on the street, high-fiving everyone in sight. Just barely a teenager, I along with my brother and some friends ended up cheering with the mass of humanity that congregated on Broadway in North Beach. It never felt threatening or unsafe, though we did high tail it out of there when the police arrived in riot gear. Fun times indeed. So whether I decide to watch with friends or end up staying home, mark my words, I’ll be swirling Chardonnay and noshing on Brie. Anya Balistreri
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