Last night Landmark Vineyards winemaker Greg Stach led a group of Dallas media through a unique blending experience creating a true hands on approach to the process that he and his winemaking team go through each year to make their award winning Overlook Chardonnay. I was an invited guest of the winery. Though the process we went through last night only included 4 Chardonnay samples from four of the vineyards Landmark sources their fruit from each year, it was easy to see how each flavor added to the character of the final wine. Each year Greg and his team go through this blending practice to make their signature label with fruit from 23 different vineyards and about 46 individual vineyard blocks, each with their own style, structure, aroma and flavor that when blended come together to create one balanced wine.
Creating a classic Californian Chardonnay has been the goal of Landmark since the wineries inception, working with hand selected growers throughout Sonoma County to ensure that their Chardonnay would have the best opportunity to shine. And each of these vineyards bring something different to the table.
As we tasted, the Heintz Vineyard, northeast of Occidental, produces very aromatic fruit filled with ripe pear, apple and light citrus notes with good acidity. This is a wine that could stand on its own, but when blended will add good structure and balance to a wine. The Lorenzo Vineyard, in Russian River, produces a Chardonnay filled with minerality and clay, much earthier than some of the others we tried, but still had a nice balance of freshness and fruit. The key with the Lorenzo Vineyard is that the minerality and clay influence on the wine will help with its ability to age, another key component needed with any wine.
We created our blend with just four wines and looking at the combinations around me it was clear no two were alike; the work winemakers go through each year to create that perfect balance to apease many palates is somewhat mind-blowing. This is where years of practice and skill come in, as well as trusting your palate and always creating a product that you are proud of and that is representative of you and your winery. I have often said that making wine is unlike making any other kind of alcohol, as you are at the mercy of so many things that are outside of your control, mostly Mother Nature. Landmark’s ability to source from so many different vineyards, blending right amount of the best fruit from each one allows them to not only create a delicious product each year, but also a consistent one.
After creating our own unique blend we had a chance to taste through some of Landmark’s other wines over an expertly paired dinner at Abacus created by Corporate Chef Aaron Staudenmaier. Each dish from Grilled Copper River Salmon on light as air Texas Cornbread Pudding with Meyer Lemon Round Rock Honey paired with a special bottling of the Heintz Chardonnay from 2010, to Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin with incredible Wild Mushroom-Parmesan Risotto simply dressed with a flavorful Local Strawberry-Basil Chutney with the Landmark 2012 Grand Detour Pinot Noir, to Texas Blackberry Crostada with the berry and spice filled Landmark 2010 Kivelstadt Syrah proved why the marriage of food and wine is not only ideal, but can be an art form. Each flavor enhanced and the next, while still standing beautifully on its own.