TOR has been lighting up Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and this 94 point 2015 Chardonnay Durrell is sending the critical bonfire even higher. Described as “full-bodied, dense, and rich” by Parker, this is a can’t-miss release for lovers of rich, luscious Burgundian Chardonnay and a brilliant addition to what Parker has called a portfolio of “wines with sensational quality.” Fruit is impeccably sourced from Durell, one of the most extraordinary vineyards on the coast and the home of numerous 94-96 point Kistler Chardonnays. The winemaking pedigree could not be higher, with Jeff Ames, “one of Napa’s rising stars” according to Wine Spectator, at the wheel and Tor Kenward, a 25-year veteran of Beringer, overseeing the operation. We wouldn’t have a prayer of securing an allocation of a wine this in demand, save for Wine Access’s Master Sommelier Sur Lucero MS, who boosted the TOR brand at the French Laundry. Many would gladly empty out their wallet for a California Grand Cru white as equal in quality to this, but at this terrific price, you don’t have to.
Kenward takes inspiration from a Montrachet legend. “I visited Romanée-Conti several years in the 80s and spent a good deal of time with the winemaker,” he says. “We essentially make our Chardonnay the exact same way.” Like Kistler, Kenward and Ames prefer the Old Wente clone, which produces tiny berries with super concentration and high skin-to-flesh ratio in small crops. The clone thrives in the Goulding clay loam and diatomaceous earth that defines Durell’s terroir and lends smoky subtlety. In particular, TOR sources from the coveted “Sandy Hill” block, defined by fine sand and a steep incline, imbuing the berries with saline sophistication and mineral depth.
The TOR boys describe 2015 as a “whiz-bam-boom” vintage: precocious, fast, and a gobsmaker in terms of quality. Just one catch: cool weather in spring cut yields by 35%. That drop is reflected in our allocation. First come, first served.