I tried a California cult wine last week at dinner. My friend Jay brought a bottle of 2005 Kistler Chardonnay to Antonella’s in South Orange. This hard-to-get wine is only available by mail order. To stay on the mailing list, you have to purchase an entire case at $80/bottle and up. Clever Jay split a case with a friend—still a lot of dough, but this wine is truly special.
I examined the bottle and noticed that the limited production wine had a number on the label (like a lithograph). Inside the bottle, the golden wine showed a wisp of cloudiness wafting up the center. Reading the back label, I learned that the wine is unfined and unfiltered. Fining is a process that gives wine clarity and filtering removes further sediments. Most winemakers choose to do both, but some forego one or both processes, believing that they sacrifice some flavor. These renegades want to create a wine that is as unprocessed as possible. I think it’s possible to make good or bad wine either way.
While some drinkers would panic to see a ghostly presence in their wine. I thought it looked ethereal and was more intrigued.
The aromas were complex with honey and floral notes. The mouthfeel was very dense. Loads of fruit with a delicious amount of tannin. The finish went on forever. This is a spectacular Chardonnay that says “Burgundy” far more than “California.” In fact, it reminded me of the Bobby Kacher white Burgundies from 2005 I had drunk two weeks before.
The wine paired beautifully with a mouthwatering appetizer—mussels and clams in a Prosecco cream sauce.
So cheers to Jay for introducing me to an outstanding wine. Given its scarcity, difficulty in ordering, and price point, the wine is a rare pleasure best savored with wonderful food and old friends.