2014 Varner "Amphitheater Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

SKU #1259569 93 points Vinous

 The 2014 Chardonnay Amphitheater Block wraps around the palate with striking depth. Creamy, ample and expressive, the Amphitheater is all about texture. Orange peel, mint, graphite, candied lemon and sweet floral notes abound in this deeply nuanced Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay. There is a lot to like here. (AG)  (7/2016)

K&L Notes

The 2014 Amphitheater Block comes from 2 acres on a south-facing slope at 780 to 735 feet in elevation. The vineyard is planted to 33 year old vines on their own roots. The soil has sedimentary rock near the surface. During vinification, the wine is aged in all french oak, 0f which 25% is new. Ten miles from the Pacific Ocean, the northern Santa Cruz Mountains appellation features vineyards that are dry-farmed, non-fertilized, hand-hoed, and use no insecticides.

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Price: $47.99

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By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 6/24/2016 | 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 for 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 “winemaking” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The bad news, however, is that the 2014 vintage will be the last vintage for these wines from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, as the Varners couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the vineyard on and extension of the lease for the vineyard. So get them before they are gone forever.
The 2014 "Amphitheater Block” is much friendlier than in previous vintages. Historically, this wine has been the most linear and hard-lined of the trio, but not this year. Crushed minerals with notes of crimson clover, persimmon and a touch of caramelized corn swirl in the nose and lead in to the much more round and fleshy set of flavors. Pear, apricot, peach and a honeyed lace dominate the flavors but these rich, lush flavors never tip into overbearing territory. Rather, there is a broad beam of acid that cuts through this pitch like a hot knife through butter. This is the vineyard that intrigues me most every year with its changes and development. I’ll be sad to not to see it continue to grow up.

Additional Information:



- 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 (%): 14.1