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2017 BEST Chardonnay: La Crema Winery

Author: Karen Hart
June, 2017 Issue

“Our technique is rooted in the philosophy that gentle handling is best. Everything we do, from the vineyard through to the bottle, is with a mind to minimal intervention.”—Craig McAllister

The Spanish phrase la crema vinera means “the best of the vine,” and La Crema Vinera, was once the original name for La Crema, founded in 1979 by Rod Burgland in his Petaluma garage. In 1993, Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, purchased the winery and shortened the name to La Crema. Despite the change in name and ownership, the standard set by this winery to offer the best of the vine remains steadfast. Perhaps that’s the reason La Crema was voted Best Chardonnay by NorthBay biz readers for the seventh time.

Last summer, the winery opened a new tasting room at the La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor. How does La Crema continue to offer the best of the vine year after year? “Grapes are an expression of the climate and soil,” says Lisa Hogle, lead wine educator at the winery. The elements play a significant role in how La Crema grapes are transformed into wines with a lush, velvety taste. “Our technique is rooted in the philosophy that gentle handling is best,” adds Head Winemaker Craig McAllister, who is originally from New Zealand, and studied viticulture and enology at Lincoln University there.

“Everything we do, from the vineyard through to the bottle, is with a mind to minimal intervention, says McAllister. “We keep each lot separate until blending. Everything—from our more widely available Sonoma Coast and Monterey wines to our Appellation Series or even Nine Barrel [their estate premium wine]—gets the same thoughtful, hand-crafted approach.”

La Crema grapes are sourced from cool climates, which means the grapes spend more time on the vine, allowing a deeper spectrum of flavors. “I like to say we’re cool climate specialists,” says McAllister. “We are perhaps best known for our Chardonnay, but we also make Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, all from maritime influenced growing regions in California and up into Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
La Crema offers 10 Chardonnays. Their 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and 2015 Monterey Chardonnay are their most popular and a good value, retailing in the $20 range. Both pair well with food, says Hogle, and are lively and adventurous in character.
How does it feel to be voted Best Chardonnay? “We’re incredibly honored to be recognized by our local community,” says McAllister. “There are many exceptional Chardonnay producers in Sonoma County, and we’re proud to be named a favorite.”

Aside from their range of Chardonnays, La Crema is also known for their Pinot Noir. “Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is very well-suited to the cool climate regions,” says McAllister. “We also have a beautiful Pinot Gris that’s perfect for summertime, and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.”
What’s new on the horizon for La Crema? “New this year are a few single-vineyard designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from some special vineyards in Sonoma County and Mendocino County,” says McAllister.

Meanwhile, the staff at La Crema Estate are happy to be settled into their new tasting room on Slusser Road, nestled on a hill in the heart of the Russian River Valley in a historic building that was once a barn. Says McAllister, “It’s truly the home for La Crema we always wanted.” If you’re looking to try one of their signature Chardonnays (or Pinot Noirs), stop by La Crema this summer, where they offer a variety of different tasting flights.

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