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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Trey’s March Chardonnay Picks

People in the wine industry have a tendency to generalize California Chardonnay. It is perceived by many as over-oaked, heavy and lacking acidity and balance. While this may be true for some it is unfair to say all California Chardonnay is in the same style. There are many that could easily be confused with a great White Burgundy if tasted blind. Two of these wines I believe are the 2003 Varner “Home Vineyard” Santa Cruz Chardonnay ($28.99) and the 2003 Varner “Bee Block” Santa Cruz Chardonnay ($29.99). Both really show what California Chardonnay is capable of. The Home Vineyard is made up of vines that are 23 years old. The Bee Block's vines average about 15 years old. Both wines are made in a truly “hands-off” approach. Owners Jim and Bob Varner both believe the wine is made in the vineyard and not in the cellar. New oak is kept in check, 50% new French on the Bee Block and 40% on the Home. Both wines show great acidity and freshness, along with rich mid-palates and long spicy finishes. I think with a couple more years in the bottle both will gain even more complexity and richness. Another wine in a similar style is the 2003 Hanzell Sonoma Chardonnay ($54.99). Minimal new oak and very little malolactic fermentation makes this a precise and pure Chardonnay worth lying down for a while. This wine shows mineral-driven fruit aroma with flavors of white pear, green apple and citrus notes. Subtle hints of toast and spice notes remain in the background and linger on the finish. For those of you looking for that “typical” California style, I would recommend one of the best. The 2003 Sbragia “Gamble Ranch” Napa Chardonnay ($34.99) is for those of you who are looking for that rich, lush and creamy texture in a white wine. Owner Ed Sbragia, the current head winemaker at Beringer, has created this wine with all his signature techniques. The wine is rich and opulent with a buttery, nutty quality that seems to linger on the palate for several minutes. —Trey Beffa

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