by Fred McMillin
for February 5, 1998
Something's New Under the Sun
"We have been working on the Shale Ridge program since 1991, and have been in the development stage for four years determining our wine style. The 1996 Shale Ridge Chardonnay is our very first release of this all-estate Monterey wine."...Steve Pessagno, Shale Ridge Winemaker
The Rest of the Story
When Steve Pessagno turns out a new wine, we all pay attention. When he did it for Lockwood Vineyard a few years ago, he garnered a Gold Medal right off the bat.
Steve's grapes grew at the south end of Monterey's Salinas Valley. There the enemy is heat. So, the grapes were harvested in the cool of the night and the juice pressed immediately into REFRIGERATED stainless steel tanks. Furthermore, fermentation was carried out at a cool 55 degrees, which took over a month to complete. This is not the cheapest way to make Chardonnay but happily, Shale Ridge has held the price down to $10. Nice going, Steve!
Shale Ridge 1996 Chardonnay, Monterey
Vineyard Location—All grapes from San Lucas
Acidity—6.9 grams/liter...spell that "refreshing."
Alcohol—A substantial 13.6%
Tasting Notes—I don't want to give it away. My panel felt you got a lot of flavors for the money. The oak treatment is light, so you can taste the effects on the grapes of those low temperatures.
Not so long ago, sharp critic Bob Thompson wrote that there were not yet nearly enough wineries in the Salinas Valley's "ocean of vines." Shale Ridge certainly is a welcome addition.
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.
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