The Golden Coast’s Côtes de Beaune Superstar
The résumé of Dean De Korth — the superstar winemaker at Bernardus Winery in Carmel Valley — includes stints at Burgundy’s Comtes Lafon and Olivier Leflaive. This impressive background, coupled with the perfect 2014 growing season (the driest on record in Monterey) meant De Korth was primed to deliver his finest Chardonnays — teeming with vibrancy and intensity. He calls the uber-concentrated 2014 Bernardus his favorite in recent memory, marrying Steve Kistler’s Sonoma Coast lemon-curd opulence with David Ramey’s textbook Carneros cut. Sourced from Rosella’s, Sierra Mar, and Soberanes vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Bernardus’s 2014 Chardonnay Monterey County is the closest the Golden Coast gets to Côtes de Beaune magic. At $19.99 per bottle, with 92 points from Wine Enthusiast, stuff as much as you can in the cellar, unless of course you happen to be vacationing at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, where you can enjoy this wine by the glass while rubbing elbows at the bar.
De Korth didn’t rest on his considerable laurels when he came to Bernardus; he set about making coastal Chardonnay that would have his illustrious mentors smiling ear to ear. Lafon’s signature extended time on the lees and multiple battonage (stirring), which had both an oxidative and reductive effect, made for deeply concentrated golden-hued, lemond-curd Chardonnay for which wine collectors around the world would dish out $1,000/bottle. In contrast, Leflaive was a classicist, whose wines were a study of textural richness, angularity, and mineral cut.
The 2014 growing season in Monterey County was one of the driest on record. The call to harvest came in the first weeks of September, much earlier than a typical growing season in Monterey County. The result was incredibly intense, beautiful Chardonnay. As we tasted De Korth’s 2014 lineup, he told us that the vintage was “in a class apart,” taking him back two decades while working in the cellars at Place des Marronniers in Puligny-Montrachet and 5 Rue Pierre Joigneaux in Meursault.
The 2014 Bernardus Chardonnay Monterey County is comprised of carefully selected barrels from a small handful of vineyards, including acclaimed viticulturist Gary Franscioni’s Rosella’s, Sierra Mar, and Soberanes in the cool Santa Lucia Highlands, each undergoing malolactic fermentation and hand-stirred every two weeks until shortly before blending.