by Fred McMillin
for March 18, 1998

A Triple-A Chardonnay


Few wineries across the country can match the Matanzas Creek record for producing top Chardonnays.

......Leading wine critic Robert Parker

The Matanzas Creek Chardonnay is one of the Top 100 Wines released in 1995.

...The Wine Spectator

The Rest of the Story  

Here's how this terrific Chardonnay came to be.
1974—After some difficulties with vinegrowing on a north-facing Sonoma tract, Sandra McIver found and bought a 116-acre dairy farm facing SOUTH.
1977—Merry Edwards is hired as the first winemaker. It was decided to obtain a variety of Chardonnay clones from U.C.(Davis).
1983—Vintages 1978 (the first) through 1981 receive strong critical acclaim, the '79 and '81 winning the Sweepstakes Award in major competitions.
1984—David Ramey replaces Merry as winemaker, and added more dimensions to the Chardonnay, using some French touches based on his experience at the renowned Chateau Petrus. He introduces aging on the lees (yeasty sediment), advocated malolactic fermentation (reduces acidity and adds complexity), and more.
1985—Bill Parker, with 10 years of Sonoma winery experience, is hired as cellarmaster. Susan Reed, with a strong science background, is hired as laboratory director.
1989—David leaves. Susan and Bill become co-winemakers, so 50% of the winemakers' time can be spent on research. Bill says, "We have hundreds of bottled experiments that tell us what works best in the vineyards and the cellar." (My classes have loved the examples they've sent, such as tasting the same wine, except one was aged in new French oak, the other in French oak that had been used previously for two years to age an earlier wine...the class preferred the new, but liked even more a blend of the two.)
1997—My large tasting includes the 1995 release and it wins Best White. Those experiments continue to pay off BIG.

The Wine

1995 Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma Valley
Winemaking—100% malolactic fermentation, stirred on the lees, 39% of the French oak used for storage is new.
Phone—(707) 528-6464


"Matanzas" is a Native American word meaning "to destroy," which is what the winery does to much of its competition.

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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