the exquisite chardonnays of abeja

Friday, June 15, 2012

Last night Mrs. G and I were invited to an Abeja Vintage Dinner at T Maccarone’s in Walla Walla. Hosted by John and Molly Abbott, and orchestrated by owner Tom Maccarone and Chef Jake Crenshaw, the dinner matched a series of excellent small plates to a dazzling array of well-aged Abeja wines.

It is always a treat to taste older wines from a winery library. Wines that have never been subjected to the vagaries of shipping and uncertain storage conditions have a far better chance of mellowing smoothly into a complex maturity. Of course, the raw materials have to be there to begin with, but given John Abbott’s immaculate track record as a winemaker at Acacia and Canoe Ridge, and (for the past decade) as winemaker/partner in Abeja, the quality of the wines was never an issue.

The evening began with a trio of chardonnays, from 2011, 2006 and 2007.

The 2011, the current release, was elegant, detailed, truly Burgundian – a Chassagne-Montrachet in sheep’s clothing. The 2006 was astonishing. An almost oily wine, with stupendous depth and length, it all but stole the show right off the bat. Today I would score it a 96. My original review from four years ago noted “the wine is still showing a lot of rich new oak flavors – toast, coconut and vanilla crème. Sur lie aging (in 100% French oak) adds plenty of texture and the impression of minerality. Behind the oak is a lush mix of fruits, from tangerine and pineapple through papaya and ripe banana.” I must admit I low-balled the score (91) due to the dominance of the new oak. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that when tasting such young wines, the new oak is prone to dominate the nose and flavor. It’s important to look beyond it to see what fruit and acid is there to ultimately balance it out.

The 2007 chardonnay was remarkably fresh, bright and youthful. It was an almost-perfect match to the 2011, complex and vivid, with crisp fruit flavors of apple and pear. My original review read “A lush expression of buttered brioche, Key lime, toasted nuts, light tropical, nicely woven together. It gains fullness as it breathes and opens up right in the mouth. The finish extends and details out beautifully, without relying on super ripe fruit or excessive oak. 92 points.”

The wine of the night came next. The 2006 viognier was every bit as good as its companion chardonnay. Thick and supple, remarkably fresh and luscious with tremendous concentration, its super dense fruits mixed tropical and citrus flavors in a well-balanced, never-ending flavor parade. As Abbott explained, he never would have made a viognier (or a syrah) except the property came with those vines already in place. Looking through my notes, I have reviews of all the other vintages but somehow missed the 2006. Better late than never! There are few, if any, viogniers in the country that can match this one for power and beauty.

The rest of the evening was devoted to older reds – a 2006 syrah, a 2004 merlot, and a 2002 reserve cabernet sauvignon (the first ever made). All were drinking very well, and all had many years of life still ahead. By this time the meal was rolling along comfortably, the food was divine, the conversation flowing, and my attention wandered. Suffice it to say, if you have any Abeja wines in your cellar, you may be confident that they are aging beautifully.



Peter Rosback said...

As I tell people, get on board now - John and Molly are making some of the best wines in the country.

PaulG said...

Peter, sadly, too late to get on board. Mailing list is closed. When you come visit we'll pop a few corks...

Anonymous said...

I was intigued by your posting on Abeja Chard. So I went looking in my cellar on Father's day and found the 2006 Abeja Chard, it went well with the scallops, shrimp and halibut on the grill with a few other choice items. It was exactly as you described right down to the almost oily texture. Amazing and so glad I still had a bottle to enjoy. Love the post but the wine, well that was a real treat. Thanks for that, I might not have looked otherwise. Being able to have John work with Sagemoor grapes is really fun. Amazing wines. Cheers. Kent Waliser

PaulG said...

Kent - Thanks for growing the grapes!!!

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