2010 Varner "Amphitheater Block" Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay

SKU #1109410 94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 The 2010 Chardonnay Amphitheater Block is a big, broad-shouldered wine. There is a directness to the fruit that is highly appealing. Nectarine, honeysuckle, mint and flowers are all supported by clean veins of minerality. This extroverted, enveloping Chardonnay could use another year or two in bottle to fully come together. The clone in this parcel is believed to be Wente, or a derivative of Wente. The wine certainly has the richness and weight typically associated with that clone. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. Brothers Jim and Bob Varner describe 2010 as a cold year with two heat spikes that were shorter and less dramatic than in other parts of California. It was a long growing season, and the fruit came in 2-3 weeks later than normal. As always, the Varner and Neely wines were fermented in barrel, with native yeasts, natural fermentation and minimal handling. These broad-shouldered Chardonnays and deep, resonant Pinots remain some of the most compelling wines being made in California.  (8/2012)

K&L Notes

We're always HUGE fans of the Varner brothers' wines, especially from this, their flagship label. These are carefully crafted, terroir-driven wines that drink well on release and age well too. The 2010 Amphitheater Block, 29-year-old own-rooted vines planted to a south-facing slope with lots of sedimentary rock at the surface produces a wine with more floral aromatics than its brethren, and a deep set nutty-mushroomy quality, says Domestic buyer Bryan Brick. On the palate, it is the most stone fruit driven, but with some baked pear and creamsicle qualities. It's also a touch richer and more textural than the home, but like all of the Varner wines, has great, integrated acidity. This is a nice Chardonnay with lots of flesh, pith and broad appeal.

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Price: $41.99
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Staff Image By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 9/24/2012 | Send Email
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from Varner you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last 5 years, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. Don’t miss out on the release of these 2010 single block Chardonnays, they won’t last long. The 2010 Amphitheater Block has an intense nose of white floral tones, deep set nuttiness and a pleasing wild mushroom quality. Packed with flavors of stone fruit, tangy orange flesh, creamsickle and baked pear with plenty of acidity to offset the considerable richness, stylistically this wine is wedged nicely between the delicacy of the Home Block and the power of the Bee Block.

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- It's hard to believe that up until about 30 years ago, this extremely popular varietal hid behind the veil of geographical names like Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet. Now grown all over the world and bottled by its varietal name, Chardonnay has achieved a level of branding unlike any other wine. Surprisingly, though, what you get when you buy Chardonnay can differ greatly from country to country and even within one country, depending on the climate where it's grown and how it is vinified and aged. From fresh, crisp and minerally with apple and lemon notes to rich and buttery with tropical fruit overtones, Chardonnay runs the gamut. In France's Burgundy, Chardonnay is the source of the prized wines of Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne, Mâcon, Meursault and Montrachet. It also the foundation of exceptional Champagne, where it is blended with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier or vinified on its own into Blanc de Blancs. It is also extremely popular in California, and is gaining popularity in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and South Africa.

United States

- When people consider domestic wine, they normally think about the state of California. The fine viticultural Region within California, including the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mendocino and Santa Barbara, are capable of growing grapes of world-class quality. But there's plenty of fabulous wine coming from other states, too. Oregon, Washington and New York are also causing eyebrows (and glassware) to be raised around the world. Click for a list of bestselling items from the United States.


- With the explosive growth that California's wine industry has seen the past several years, it's easy to view winemaking and grape growing in the Golden State as a recent phenomenon. And while it's true that California's viticultural history is brief compared to several European countries, this state's roots date back well over 200 years. Due to the enormous response to California wine within the United States and worldwide, there are thousands of excellent and diverse wines being produced within the state each year. For our entire selection of California wines, please visit this link.
Specific Appellation:

Santa Cruz Mountains

- Vineyards dot the valleys and ridges of this coastal AVA just south of San Francisco. Microclimates make it difficult to generalize, and vineyards are frequently separated by acres of forests and meadowlands (not to mention entire towns!), but this is nonetheless known as a cooler-climate zone ideal for pinot noir. Ridge is doubtless the most famous local producer, with its cabernet blend, Monte Bello, named after a Santa Cruz mountain peak. High-quality, low-production chardonnay and some Rhône varietals prosper as well.
Alcohol Content (%): 13.5