2017 Diatom "Katherine's" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

SKU #1377889 94 points Jeb Dunnuck

 Coming from the Santa Maria Valley (this label is by and large focused on the Sta. Rita Hills), the 2017 Chardonnay Katherine’s just jumps from the glass with a perfumed, tropical bouquet of ripe citrus, spice, dried pineapple, and mango notes. Showing more and more classic salinity and oyster shell characteristics with time in the glass, it’s medium-bodied, has bright acidity, a layered, viscous texture, and a beautiful finish. It’s going to evolve for 8-10 years at a minimum.  (10/2018)

94 points Vinous

 The 2017 Chardonnay Katherine's is the most distinctive wine in this range. Crushed rocks, slate, lemon peel and graphite are some of the many notes that flesh out in an expansive, layered Chardonnay endowed with tremendous pedigree and sheer character. The Katherine's will be fascinating to follow as it develops in bottle. Even today, though, it is a true standout. (AG)  (9/2018)

92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 While Diatom was formerly wedded to sites in the Sta. Rita Hills, Brewer-Clifton produced a Chardonnay from Katherine's Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley (neighboring Bien Nacido) in the 1999 vintage, so in a sense this cuvée represents a return to old haunts. At 445 cases, the 2017 Chardonnay Katherine's is also by some margin Diatom's largest bottling this vintage. Notes of peach, grapefruit, pastry cream and lime cordial precede a medium-bodied, glossy, saline, acid-driven wine with beautiful purity and concentration. The Diatom wines were bottled only nine days before I tasted them, but they were remarkably open for inspection. Greg Brewer continues to produce these minimalist wines, fermented and matured in stainless steel with blocked malolactic fermentation, which foreground differences between specific vineyards, in turn amplified by different clonal selections of Chardonnay. What they share is searing intensity and energy. None of these are large cuvées, but admirers of this style will find the 2017 vintage well worth pursuit. (WK)  (4/2017)

K&L Notes

This wine is recommended among a selection of Chardonnays in our September 16, 2019 newsletter: "The Golden Era of Golden State Chardonnay." K&L Domestic wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse says, "California Chardonnay continues to be dogged by the stereotype that it is invariably big, rich, buttery, and oaky. However, this is a long way from the truth. In fact, there are so many precise, focused, restrained examples of the variety being produced right now, that when I’m asked by someone for a big, buttery style, I have to think hard about what I’m going to recommend! I would guess that bright, balanced, judiciously oaked California Chardonnays outnumber oaky butter bombs on our shelves five to one. Even brands that have long been made in that richer style have, by and large, dialed down the ripeness, new oak, and diacetyl ('butter flavor'), and are now making wines with more acidity and verve."

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Price: $29.95

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By: John Majeski | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 9/25/2019 | Send Email
This captivating Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay takes its name from the microscopic, elegantly blown-glass shaped diatoms that floated freely in our oceans millions of years ago, and gave up the ghost, leaving literally zillions of tiny fossils that helped form our beautiful coast. The lemony vibrancy and chalklike minerality of this crystal-pure, marine-influenced white wine can thank their humble sacrifice. Richly evocative, this wine unwinds beautifully in the glass, and it would be difficult find a finer example of unoaked Chardonnay in California.

By: Stephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 5/3/2019 | Send Email
This is not your typical California Chardonnay. Focused with minerality and bright acid, Diatom truly shows its terroir of gravely soils, old vines and maritime climate. There is generous citrus and tropical character on the nose intertwined with subtle spice. On the palate the fruit is ripe, but with incredible salinity and wet rock to offer balance. This is a serious wine that would pair great with fresh seafood and light dishes.

By: Robert Cash | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 5/1/2019 | Send Email
This is an extraordinarily elegant, focused Chardonnay of grace and structure. The marine influence on the vineyards is subtly present on the nose as well as the palate. The nose offers up a plethora of citrus and tropical fruit aromas that seem endless. With no oak and no malo in the way, the quality of fruit and winemaking skill shines forth with minerality and a great acid structure. Medium bodied on the palate with a generous mouthfeel and long finish. This is a wine of tremendous quality!

By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 4/30/2019 | Send Email
An absolutely stunning, pure, refined, Chardonnay. This perfectly illustrates just how compelling California Chardonnay can be with all the wine making artifact peeled away. Greg Brewer's Diatom project aims to reduce any outside factor's impact on the expression of the vineyard site. The wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel, no malo, very minimal intervention. He simply wants to capture the sense of place conveyed by these 48 year old own-rooted vines. And capture it he has! Intense stony minerality, racy acidity, juicy citrus fruits, weight and texture cling to this focused and linear style. It has incredible length and persistence on the palate. Reminds me very much of fine Chablis with it's almost incomprehensible combination of weightlessness and power, intensity and precision. One of the best value white wines in the store.

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.


- 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.
Specific Appellation:

Santa Maria/Santa Barbara

- Santa Maria and Santa Ynez make up the two AVAs of Santa Barbara County, an area known for its natural beauty and temperate climate. The best grape-growing areas, however, are located on the very coastal reaches of these two appellations, and are cooled by ever-present fog and ocean breezes (it is even cooler and foggier here than Carneros!). As expected, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive while the more inland zones lay claim to Bordeaux varietals and some Rhône blends.
Alcohol Content (%): 14.5