There is no doubt that I have the avid curiosity of a kid when we get our quarterly box of three wines from A Taste of Monterey. It sometimes feels like an archeologist getting ready to discover an undiscovered room. Everyone gets giddy, I guess when there is a surprise, especially if they are anticipating something very special. You may look at the title and perhaps stifle a yawn, and think to yourself; yes, he has been to Bernardus and has had their wines before, he has had wines from Sierra Mar Vineyard and he has had plenty of wines from Santa Lucia Highlands, and yes, he has definitely had his share of Chardonnay wines is fifty years. You would be right on all counts, but there is always great anticipation of enjoying a well-crafted wine and I have discovered that some of the wines that I thought were over the hill surprised me, because of the quality behind the bottle. I have tried to stay optimistic.
Bernardus Winery and Vineyards was founded by Ben Marinus Pon about twenty-five years ago with the intention of creating premier wines in the Carmel Valley. His intent was to produce single vineyard designated wines and a Bordeaux blended wine. Bernardus has three estate vineyards: Marinus planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; Featherbow planted with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon; and Ingrid’s Vineyard planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All fifty-four acres of estate vineyards are in the Carmel Valley AVA. To compliment the estate vineyards Bernardus also has contracts with vineyards the Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and others in the Monterey County. I am sorry to say, that Mr. Pon passed away in September of 2019 and his vision will be continued by Robert van der Wallen the current owner, who also understand the passion that Mr. Pon had for his winery.
Bernardus Winery Sierra Mar Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands 2018 is one of the single vineyard designated wines that Mr. Pon envisaged and his version of a white wine to compete with Burgundy. Sierra Mar Vineyard was planted by Gary Franscioni on a hilltop at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Bernardus Winery has the good fortune to be able to get both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit that has been harvested from this respected vineyard. There are several clones that have been planted there like the Wente clone and the Dijon clone 96, and all the fruit is hand harvested and hand sorted. This Chardonnay wine emulates the best of the white Burgundy wines, in that it has gentle whole-cluster pressing and special selected yeast for the fermentation and a complete malolactic fermentation. Each barrel is hand stirred every two weeks until just before the final blending and bottling. The wine is aged in French Oak, of which forty percent is new for about eleven months. The tasting notes suggest a nose of ripe peach and apricot along with caramel and honey suckle. The taste offers candied white fruits, spice and toasted oak, with rich tones, crisp acidity and a very long finish, and an aging potential of six to eight years. There is nothing shabby about this wine and I am sure one can understand my excitement about this wine.