2011 Varner "Bee Block" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Another compelling effort is the gorgeously fruity 2011 Chardonnay Bee Block (488 cases). It offers lots of honeysuckle, creme brulee, pineapple, mango, peach and wet gravel-like notes, a structured minerality, and sensational, full-bodied richness. It should drink well for 10+ years. These organically, dry-farmed vineyards located ten miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Cruz Mountains are managed by two brothers. I was super-impressed by their attitude as well as their statement that “90% of what we do to contribute to our quality is work in the vineyard.” All of these wines are minimally processed with indigenous yeast fermentations, hand racking, and are produced in relatively small quantities, ranging from 95 cases of the Pinot Noir Three Blocks, to nearly 500 cases of the Chardonnay B Block. I can not recommend these fairly priced reds and whites highly enough. (RP)
The 2011 Chardonnay Bee Block has the structure and power of the Home, but shows a restraint in its fruit that is closer to the Amphitheater. In 2011, the Bee convinces for its overall balance, precision and sheer pedigree. This is another wine that will require 6-12 months in bottle, if not a little more than that. A recent bottle of the 2010 was stellar, and more than lived up to my praise from last year. All the best elements of the Varner house style come together here. (AG)
At K&L, we are always HUGE fans of the Varner brothers' wines. These are carefully crafted, terroir-driven Chardonnays that drink well on release and also age very well. This bottling hails from the Bee Block at the Varners' Spring Ridge Vineyard, which features 24-year-old vines planted to a northeast-facing slope. The vines are dry-farmed and worked by hand with no insecticides. The wine is fermented on indigenous yeast and aged in 25% new, French (Bertranges & Troncais) oak. The cool 2011 vintage ripened grapes in a long growing season with low sugars, but fully ripe and developed flavors. Antonio Galloni wrote for Wine Advocate in August of 2011 on Varner's Chardonnays: "They are fairly large-scaled wines that at the same time retain considerable minerality and structure in a style that is distinctive of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but that stands apart from the lusher, oakier style of wine many people associate as typical of California Chardonnay... Readers should do whatever they can to taste these majestic Chardonnays."