Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #32 - Regular v. Reserve

What: WBW is the international Internet wine tasting event held monthly. Lenn is the mastermind. Details and past postings are here.

Host/Hostess: This month's event is hosted by Wine Cask.

Theme: Regular versus Reserve wines

The Wines: Simi Winery Chardonnay

Simi Winery is part of the Icon Estates group, which is one of Constellation Brands’ divisions. Giuseppe and Pietro Simi founded Simi Winery in 1876. The brothers had traveled from Tuscany, Italy, to California during the Gold Rush and by 1876 had settled in San Francisco where they began making wine.

When they discovered the rolling hills of Sonoma County, they were reminded of home. In 1881 they moved their winemaking operations to the little town of Healdsburg in northern Sonoma County, where they completed construction of Simi's first stone cellar in 1890.

The cellars were built from native basalt dug from the hillside and were set back into the side of the hill to enjoy the natural insulation of the earth. Early success in making and selling wine led to doubling the size of the cellars in 1904. Then, tragically, both brothers died within four months of each other. Giuseppe's daughter, Isabelle, took over management of the winery at age eighteen.

Isabelle Simi married local banker Fred Haigh, and together the two continued to grow the winery until Prohibition began in 1920. Forbidden to sell their wine, Isabelle and Fred continued to make and store wine in the stone cellars for the 15 years that Prohibition lasted. Unfortunately, they were forced to sell much of the family's vineyard property to save the winery itself.

When Prohibition ended in December of 1933, Isabelle and Fred were ready with a large supply of perfectly cellared wine to sell. To celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, they planted a grove of still-standing redwood trees around the winery.

2005 Simi Winery, Sonoma County Chardonnay ($15) -- 100% Chardonnay aged 5 months in 100% French oak. Case production is 170,000. Full bodied, apples, pears and butter with a medium finish with a touch of lemon acidity. For a large production wine this is well done.

2004 Simi Winery, Russian River Reserve Chardonnay ($27) – 100% Chardonnay aged 11 months in 58% new French oak. 20,000 cases produced. This is one of my favorite mid-range California Chards. Yes, it has some butter and oak, but not over the top like Rombauer. More Burgundian, long finish. A great weekend wine.

For a party I would select the Regular at $15 (on post-off) over the Reserve, but if I were looking for an elegant California Chardonnay for a weekend dinner I would go with the Reserve.