2012 Varner "Amphitheater Block" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The smallest production cuvee, the 2012 Chardonnay Amphitheater Block Spring Ridge Vineyard is a stunning effort that does everything right. Possessing an almost Chablis-like minerality, with loads of Meyer lemon, citrus blossom and white-flower nuances, this beauty flows onto the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, fabulous purity and a focused, precise feel that doesn't lack for depth or richness. It's a gorgeous Chardonnay that will evolve gracefully for over a decade. This block lies just up from the Bee Block, at an elevation of 735-780 feet, and consists of 31-year-old, own-rooted vines. As with all of the Chardonnays, it was aged in 25% new French oak.
Honey, lemon peel, hazelnut, spices and savory herbs meld together in Varner's 2012 Chardonnay Amphitheater Block, a wine that adds considerable focus and energy to the classic Santa Cruz structure that is such a distinctive signature here. Today the 2012 is striking, but it will be even better in a few years, once there is a bit more flavor development. These own rooted vines planted with a derivative of the Wente clone often yield Chardonnays loaded with personality. That is once again the case in 2012.
If you've shopped K&L over the past few years, you probably know that the wines made by Bob and Jim Varner are not only among our favorites, but we think they are among the finest Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs made in California. Every wine comes from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, which is located just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Portola Valley. The grapes are dry-farmed and left to struggle for success without fertilizers or insecticides. The Amphitheater Block is a two-acre, south-facing slope planted with 31-year-old Chardonnay vines, probably Wente clone, that goes through full malo with native years in 25% new French oak. The excellent 2012 vintage will be remembered for its mild weather, which allows the terroir of the individual blocks to really shine in this forward and expressive wine.