Chardonnay with little or no oak footprint have gained popularity in recent years, but for Bedell Cellars’ winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich, it’s not a new style. He’s been making unoaked chardonnay for his entire winemaking career, dating back to 1982.
He still makes steel-fermented chardonnay, but it’s not bottled alone. Instead, most of it goes to the winery’s First Crush White, where it’s blended with sauvignon blanc and riesling.
“I want a bit more complexity in our varietal chardonnay,” he told me in an email. As with all of his wines, fermentation was done with ambient yeasts and while about 50% of the Bedell Cellars 2014 Chardonnay ($35) is steel fermented, the other 50 percent is fermented in older, neutral French oak barrels.
“I’m not looking for oak integration or flavors but want the increased mouth feel and roundness that occurs inside a barrel fermentation to integrate with the more austere properties of a stainless ferment. The wine only spends about six weeks in barrel,” Olsen-Harbich says.
The resulting wine, which retails for $35 at the Cutchogue winery, is citrusy and saline with a faint flinty edge. Gently creamy on a broad mid-palate, but bright and lemony with a little tart apple and distinct saline minerality on a long finish.
My feelings about local chardonnay are well-known, but is a style of chardonnay that Long Island can excel at – retaining the bright fruit flavors and acidity, but richer and more texturally interesting thanks to time in older barrels.
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
Blend: 100% chardonnay
Price: $35 (sample)