Affordable California Cult Wines, part 1 | Robert Young

wine labelA while back I attended a wine tasting billed as “5 Affordable California Cult Wines”.  Affordable and Cult?  This I had to see. Below is the first of a five part article series reviewing these Cult California labels that I was impressed by.

The first of the wines sampled was the 2006 Robert Young Reserve Chardonnay. According to the label, Robert Young Estate Winery, “Is a tribute to our heritage as fourth generation farmers deeply rooted in the Alexander Valley since 1858″.
I needed to dig a little deeper.  According to Susan Young Sheehy, Robert’s daughter, the history of her family in the Alexander Valley started with her great grandfather, Peter Young, who moved to California from upstate New York in the 1800’s and bought a farm. Robert Young was born two generations later in 1919. After The Great Depression which almost saw the family to lose the farm, the Young family eventually hit its stride. In 1963 Robert Young planted the very first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the now well known wine region of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.  The first crops were more successful than anticipated and Robert began tearing out the prune orchards.  By 1967 he had planted Chardonnay. In 1976 Chateau St. Jean put the Robert Young name on their label, making the specific vineyard designation a first in American wine. Today, the vineyard produces 14 premium varieties, producing nearly 2,000 tons of grapes. Only 75 tons of these grapes are reserved for the Robert Young Estate Chardonnay, sourced from the very best vines. Their 130 acres of Chardonnay consist of two clones (#17 and #26) which were sourced from Burgundy vines and developed by Robert Young in collaboration with UC Davis.  Many people consider the #17 clone (or the “Robert Young Clone”) to be the very best American Chardonnay.  In 2008 Robert and his son Jim were recognised for their significant contributions to Sonoma County Viticulture and were awarded the Viticulture Award of Excellence by the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission. Robert Young passed away on June 19th, 2009 at age 90.  What an incredible life! Something to think about while sipping this fantastic Chardonnay:
2006 Robert Young Reserve Chardonnay.  100% Estate grown in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.  This wine saw 14 months in 40% new French oak, 100% barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation.  Alcohol weighs in at 14.3% and production was 3,285 cases.  At my favorite wine shop it is selling for $23.99.  This wine was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast. Most of the previous vintages have scored 92-93 points, the exception being the 02 vintage which scored 89 points from Wine Spectator.  However, the 01 vintage received 96 points, Editors Choice and best White Wine of the Year from Wine Enthusiast.
Fans of  rich, full bodied, dry and oaky Chardonnay will love this, with its multi-layered mid palate displaying a nutty and fig like component with a creamy finish.
If you are looking for something a little more “cultish” you could try to track down a bottle of the Robert Young Cabernet “Big Block”, with only 145 cases produced.  If that is still not cultish enough you could try their 2007 Barrel Select Chardonnay which was aged in 2 Seguin Moreau French oak barrels, only enough to make 48 cases.
Though it sounds like an oxy-moron, the small production and long history behind this label make Robert Young a contender as an afforable, California Cult wine. Do you have any personally crowned, affordable California “Cult” wines?
Edited by Jon Troutman

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