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2015 BEST Chardonnay: La Crema Winery

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
May, 2015 Issue

“We’re intent on expressing the different appellations and regions where our Chardonnay is grown.” —Elizabeth Grant-Douglas

La Crema Winery is all about cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (OK, there’s a very limited release of other offerings on occasion—but that’s not what we’re here to talk about). It’s also been awarded BEST Of by NorthBay biz readers an outstanding nine times (between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir).
The winery currently produces seven different Chardonnays, each with its own distinct characteristics. “We’re intent on expressing the different appellations and regions where our Chardonnay is grown,” says Director of Winemaking Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, who joined the winemaking team as enologist in 2001, became winemaker in 2010 and was promoted to her current position in 2013.
Grant-Douglas explains that the winemaking team of herself, Craig McAllister (associate winemaker), Matt Flick (assistant winemaker) and Greg Landin (enologist) spend a great deal of time coming up with the final blend for each wine. “We blind taste with different options until we find something we really love,” she adds. “It’s a culmination of a year of work, so we want everyone to enjoy it.”
The most popular and widely available wine is the Sonoma Coast (a citrus kiss with layers of toast, butter, apple and vanilla), which the winery considers its flagship. Next up is the Monterey (crisp and floral with elements of melon and pear), sourced from one of the longest, coolest growing areas in the state.
This writer’s stand-out favorite, the Russian River Valley, is also widely available. It has a rounded, multi-layered and lush body with balanced acidity and elements of citrus, honey, butter and crème brulée. “It’s sourced from 10 to 12 vineyards that are closest to the winery [in Windsor]. It’s a blend of different areas, so there are varied characteristics that add to the layers and complexity,” says Grant-Douglas.
Other Chardonnay offerings include Arroyo Seco (tropical, full-bodied), Los Carneros (toasty nose, balanced acidity, custard, rounded), Anderson Valley (floral, citrus, silky) and the acclaimed Nine Barrel, which is a blend of the top nine barrels from the Russian River Valley appellation. “It’s one of the toughest to put together,” says Grant-Douglas. “We cherry pick through the vineyards and barrels; it takes months. But we also get to express what the year had to say.”
The winery is also venturing into Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It produced a Pinot Noir from there last year, and its first Chardonnay will be released this fall. Like most of the winery’s small-batch offerings, it will only be available in the tasting room, just off Healdsburg’s square.
Completely remodeled and expanded in late 2012, the tasting room has a modern, open feeling that includes a main bar area in front that has seating along the street-facing window (which opens up completely when the weather’s right); an appellation tasting area with plush furnishings and local artwork (that changes every few months); and the Nine Barrel Room where you can enjoy the top-tier wines. Cheese pairings are also available; some experiences require a reservation.
“Thank you so much for voting us Best Chardonnay,” says Grant-Douglas. “It’s what we dream about. The wines are made with a lot of care and love, and we cherish the opportunity to do what we do.”


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