2013 Varner "Amphitheater Block - Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay (Previously $48)

SKU #1156379 95 points Vinous

 Varner's Chardonnay Amphitheater Block is rich, ample and super-expressive. Lemon peel, almonds, chamomile, earthiness, dried apricot and sage meld together effortlessly. The 2013 Amphitheater is a classic Varner Chardonnay built on phenolic intensity and plenty of savory/floral notes that add nuance, while the fruit is pushed a bit into the background. Bob and Jim Varner have turned out another magnificent set of wines at Varner and Neely. Vintage 2013 appears to have favored the Chardonnays - which are truly superb - over the Pinots. The Varners describe 2013 as a year with vine stress because of the drought, but add that there were no heat spikes or other weather shocks. As always, the Varner Chardonnays are built on breadth, power and a sense of phenolic intensity that is one of the signatures of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Chardonnays see only about eight months in barrel and are bottled in July, but then not released for almost another year. (AG)  (7/2015)

90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 The 2013 Varner Chardonnay Amphitheater Block Spring Ridge Vineyard comes from a two-acre south-facing site with the Old Wente clone. It’s a beauty, with notes of pineapple, honeysuckle, damp earth and brioche. It is rich and full-bodied with crisp acidity and an elegant, fresh, lively style. Only 25% new French oak is used, which is their general rule, but its influence is very nuanced. It should drink well for 5-6 years. (RP)  (10/2015)

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By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 8/3/2015 | Send Email
I’m not scared to say it, and I have many times, out loud, to real people. I think the Varner Chardonnays are some of the best, if not the best, Chardonnays made in the United States. These wines are still way under the radar to most wine fans due to their small production, out of the way location-high in the hills above Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and stylistic choices. But for all of us lucky enough to have tasted these wines vintage after vintage we can’t help but feel this way. The wines are just too good, with pinpoint precision, amazing complexity, and little “wine making” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The 2013 "Amphitheater Block” stunned me with how fleshed out it was. Typically the Amphitheater is always the most strict, linear, mineral driven wine under the Varner label. However this year there is a pleasing nutty generosity to the nose and a very deep set richness on the palate that just wasn’t there in previous vintages. (The Varner’s attest this to the vineyard block maturing rather than any changes in the cellar, of which there were none.) Cashew, almond skin, dried apple and nectarine mesh on the complex and intriguing nose. Bright and citrusy on entry with layers of mineral and earth over tangerine, pomelo and lemon pith this has a subtle creaminess and fleshes out with a pretty floral bitterness at its edges.

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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