Despite its very reasonable price, the 2014 Chardonnay El Camino Vineyard delivers serious intensity, richness and nuance. Broad, ample and phenolic, the 2015 exudes all the classic Varner signatures, structure being the most obvious of these. Yellow orchard fruit, mint, candied lemon, chamomile and lightly honeyed notes are front and center. This is one of the most singular Santa Barbara Chardonnays readers will come across. The style and palate weight is more than a little reminiscent of the wines the Varners made in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2014 was fermented in steel and aged in a combination of puncheon (25%) and steel, with blocked malo. This is a very serious Chardonnay for $25. (AG)
Showing the more forward, charming and textured style of the vintage, the 2014 Chardonnay El Camino Vineyard has pretty notes of citrus, leafy herbs, mint, and even basil, as well as a medium-bodied, elegant feel on the palate. Aged eight months in 25% new French oak (there's a touch of stainless steel in there as well), it's a terrific value that's ideal for drinking over the coming couple of years. The big change at this reference point estate is the splitting of the partnership between the Varner and Neely families, and the Varner brothers will no longer have access to the Spring Ridge Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they've worked since the early 2000s. Going forward, this team will focus on their contracts in Santa Barbara County, where they've also worked for the past three years. Few winemakers do Chardonnay and Pinot Noir better than brothers Jim and Bob Varner, and I've no doubt this estate will continue to be one of the stars of the Central Coast. (JD)
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