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A Mouthful of Elegant Richness
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 31, 2013
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Ten Acre Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands (California) Chardonnay, 2012 ($28):  Living on the East Coast, I unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to be as up-to-date on what’s happening in California as writers living in wine country do.  Nonetheless, I suspect that I am not alone in admitting that this winery, Ten Acres, is a discovery.  It is not only a small winery, making tiny quantities of mainly single-vineyard wines, but it is also a new winery, barely five years along in producing wines.

Ten Acre emerged as a sibling of another winery, Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Scott and Lynn Adams began growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley in 1995, and in 1999 they established Bella, a winery specialized in Zinfandel and Rhône varieties.  In 2008, the couple launched a second winery dedicated to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  They named it Ten Acre Winery, after the ten-acre vineyard estate where they lived at the time.

The grapes for Ten Acre’s wines come from independent growers, mainly in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs, and the total production is currently only 2500 cases.  Winemaker Michael Zardo, most recently assistant winemaker at Pisoni Vineyards & Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, handles production.

In 2011, Ten Acre sourced Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands, partly because rains made that vintage a difficult one for Russian River Valley, and partly because winemaker Zardo felt a strong connection to the fruit based on his work at Pisoni, where the fruit was used in the non-estate Luli brand.  This 2012 Chardonnay is the winery’s second vintage from that site, a cool vineyard site with decomposed granite soils and strong coastal influence, often covered in fog until noon.  

I liked the 2011 and in my mental comparison, I like the 2012 even more.  This 2012 is full bodied and rich but not at all flamboyant.  Although it has complex aromas and flavors — green apple, citrus skin, fresh herbs, nuts and quince — the flavors are gentle rather than loud.  One of the first impressions that you might have when you taste this wine is the sweetness and broadness of oak on the attack, but the wine does not have an explicit flavor of oak, and in fact no new oak was used in its production.  Its taste is fundamentally fruity, with a nutty, leesy character that brings complexity to the fruit.  And the wine’s texture is quite seductive — creamy texture that surrounds your tongue without ever becoming heavy, thanks to the wine’s vibrant acidity.  The overall impression is a flavorful mouthful of elegant richness.

In my own tasting note for this wine, I mentioned alcohol only as an afterthought, and then to say that it is so well integrated that I hardly noticed it.  (In fact the wine contains 14.1 percent alcohol.)  The wine underwent fermentation and aging 60 percent in stainless steel and 40 percent in neutral French oak.  It received lees-aging to broaden the palate, but did not undergo malolactic fermentation.

Ten Acre produced only 220 cases of this wine.  If you are able to get your hands on a bottle, enjoy it now or soon, over the next two years or so; it is so lovely now that I don’t envision it gaining from age.  For food pairings, keep it simple: the taste of the wine is bringing tempting thoughts of skewered grilled swordfish and vegetables to my mind.

Personally, I plan to keep an eye on Ten Acre — its impressive Pinot Noirs, its beautiful Rosé of Pinot Noir, and of course its Chardonnays.

90 points