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

SKU #1262888 94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 Another sensational effort for these two brothers, the 2014 Chardonnay Home Block Spring Ridge Vineyard reveals more minerality, as well as medium to full-bodied richness, terrific purity and classic, tropical aromas and flavors. Expansive, gorgeously textured and balanced, drink this beauty over the coming 5-7 years. The big change at this reference point estate is the splitting of the partnership between the Varner and Neely families, and the Varner brothers will no longer have access to the Spring Ridge Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they've worked since the early 2000s. Going forward, this team will focus on their contracts in Santa Barbara County, where they've also worked for the past three years. Few winemakers do Chardonnay and Pinot Noir better than brothers Jim and Bob Varner, and I've no doubt this estate will continue to be one of the stars of the Central Coast. (JD)  (10/2016)

93 points Vinous

 Varner's 2014 Chardonnay Home Block is painfully young and austere, almost a California version of Chablis in its piercing intensity until the fruit kicks in. But the weight and overall structure are very clearly those of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lemon, flowers, white pepper and chalk are all nicely delineated throughout. Readers will have to be especially patient with the Home Block, as it is quite reticent at this stage. (AG)  (7/2016)

Jancis Robinson

 Smoky, lively, very lightly reductive nose. Pretty sweet and broad on the front palate. Tastes a bit more advanced – and jujube – than I would have expected from such a young wine. Lots of early reward. Nice backbone sneaks up on you though.  (2/2016)

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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 Home Block is the most focused and fully realized of the trio of Chardonnays in 2014. With a floral aromatic intensity that is not found in the other two wines, this is a lifted and spicy nose packed with lime blossom, honeysuckle and magnolia blossom. Brisk and energetic on entry, this has a touch of a brackish/sea salt quality as a background note that resonates behind the wall of orange pith, nectarine, sweet tobacco and morel mushroom flavors. Precisely balanced and well formed, I found this to be the most instantly drinkable of the three Chardonnays and maybe the most typical, given the history of the brand.

Additional Information:

Varietal:

Chardonnay

- 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.
Country:

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.
Sub-Region:

California

- 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