Wrath: The Grapes of Chardonnay

Apologies to John Steinbeck. I took my teenage son on a trip to Northern California a few weeks ago. We visited the Monterey Aquarium, which I had visited before, but my son insisted we stay there until it closed, about five hours in total. That didn’t leave a lot of time to do wine tasting, so I picked one of my favorite wineries from our visit to the Santa Lucia Highlands last year. While Wrath Wines is technically not located in the Highlands (it lies across the road), it produces wines from Highlands fruit as well as from its own San Saba vineyards.

Sabrine Rodems (pictured here) warmly greeted us, showed us around the winery, and treated me to a tasting of the Wrath portfolio. My son took out-of-focus photos of the winery cat, while I tasted from barrel. I was already familiar with Wrath’s excellent Pinot Noir and Syrah but not their Chardonnay. What a pleasant surprise! Sabrine makes a range of Chardonnays from the unoaked to French-oaked, rich, unctuous, and liqueur like. Every one of them was delicious and rich in character. My overall favorite was the Fermata, a wine of very limited production that is partially wooded and that partially goes through malo. The result is a superbly balanced and flavorful wine.

Another favorite of mine was the Ex Amina, an un-wooded Chardonnay that is unusually rich and complex for a wine that sees no oak. My note on that wine follows. Full tasting notes on Wrath can be found on our website.

Wrath 2009 Chardonnay Ex Anima San Saba Vineyard Monterey ($29) 91
The Ex Anima Chardonnay is perhaps the most delicious un-wooded Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted and quite different from what one would expect, starting with its yellow straw-gold color. It’s mostly fermented in stainless steel with a small percent fermented in neutral oak with stirred lees, and it sees no malo. It’s made from old-vine, self-rooted Clone Four, which gives the wine its rich tropical mango nose. There’s an abundance of gorgeous, rich mango and pineapple fruit.

By the way, if you’re visiting Monterey, do yourself a favor and take a drive through the winelands on your way to Salinas to visit the National Steinbeck Center, a must-see.

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