West Sonoma Coast Vintners West of the West Festival Seminar #2 “Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays” was an appropriate topic as this is and has been for 20+ years a premier sources of grapes for many of the winemakers utilizing West Sonoma Coast grapes.
The Heintz Vineyard, owned by the Heintz family for almost 100 years consists of approximately 100 acres of which about half are planted with a combination of Chardonnay (25 Acres Clone 4 AXR1 rootstock), Pinot Noir (20 Acres, Clones: Pommard,115, 113, Swan and Berringer plus 2 Acres Swan clone), and Syrah (3 Acres, Clones 174, 470 and a “Field Select” from Hugh Chappelle all on 330). Although Charlie encouraged us all to try his beloved Syrah (during the Grand Tasting), this seminar focused on the Chardonnay.
The Panelists were lead by Alder Yarrow of Vinography with color commentary by Ehren Jordan of Failla (who does not use Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay grapes, but tried to obtain some for cement eggs during the seminar). Ehren stated his job was to keep everyone honest. Joining this group was Charles Heintz, Hugh Chapelle consulting winemaker at Heintz Vineyards, Andy Smith of DuMol, and Ted Lemon of Littorai. Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas was originally scheduled but his wife gave birth at 8 am the morning of the seminar.
Charles Heintz said the Chardonnay plantings in 1982 were originally intended to be hawked to Korbel Cellars for sparkling wine, but due to the depression of the 1980 was never accomplished. Within a few years they realized they could ripen Chardonnay for still wine and sold some via Warren Dutton, but their early client was Sebastiani. These grapes on grown at about 900 ft. elevation on the second ridge in from the Pacific Ocean in what Charles Heintz describes as a rain cloud. Even in this drought year, he indicates that his resersoirs are full.
Heintz Vineyards sells to a whose-who of great winemakers (Amici Cellars, Banshee Wines, Brack Mountain Wine, Ceritas Wines, DeLoach Vineyards, DuMol Wines, Fetzer, Flowers Winery, Freeman Family Vineyards, Heintz Vineyards, Kesner Wines, Landmark, Littorai, Migration, Moone Tsai, Pearl Morissette, Peay Vineyards, Peirson Meyer Wines, Radio Coteau, Realm Cellars, Ultramarine Wines, VonHolt Wines, Williams Selyem, and Zepaltas Wines) and has maintained long-term relationships with many of these growers, he named 20 years with panelist Ted Lemon of Littorai and 14 years with Andy DuMol of DuMol.
The Chadonnay from this vineyard has a pronounced acidity and textural difference in its mouthfeel that Charles Heintz felt was unique. About 20 years ago, Ted Lemon asked him to begin organically farming the grapes that Littorai was purchasing in the West Block. Although this has been challenging over the years, Heintz has continued to organically farm about 5 acreas of his Chardonnay.e
The first was a comparative of picking range available in the Heintz Vineyard with two 2012 Chardonnays from Ceritas and Zepaltas (harvested 2 weeks after Ceritas’ grapes) which was followed by three tank samples showing a comparison of neutral wood (Heintz) versus stainless steel (Littorai) versus hogsheads (DuMol). None of these were final wines, but indicated some winemaking nuances and the room liked all three samples, but seemed to slightly favor the stainless and hodsheads.
Three distinct but similar wines from 2011 Ceritas, 2012 Heintz, and 2012 DuMol were blind tasted to showcase similarities in qualities of the vineyard produce. The crowd was almost equally divided on which one they liked the best which was another strong indicator of the diversity and quality at this site.
Grand Tasting followed.
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