94 Insider Points
The 2015 Red Hen Chardonnay from Laird is made from grapes in their own backyard, right in the heart of the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley. Luscious tropical fruit and oak notes dominate the nose, with golden apple, pear and fresh peach showing on the palate. Expect a nice balance of fresh fruit, creamy texture and a crisp acidity, a solid showing from this classic Napa name. Enjoy now through 2020. - DZ Oct 2016
Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California
11 months in French Oak, 50% new barrels
The wine world is buzzing with excitement over this 100% Estate Chardonnay. It’s what CA-style Chard lovers dream about with its bold palate and rich textures. Our Tasting Panel says, “This latest release is a lovely combination of delicious, focused flavor and bright acidity. A can’t-miss Classic Napa Chardonnay.”
You may know Laird as the largest grape grower in Napa Valley along with their detailed dedication to custom-crush operations. Over 60 boutique wineries and winemakers produce wine at the Laird Family’s facilities, but among the hoopla and coming and going of the busy harvest seasons, Laird has been quietly crafting their own ultra-premium wines. Using just the top 3% of their select Estate Vineyards to produce approximately 10,000 total cases, you know you are getting something truly unique when you open a bottle with the Laird label.
And to think, this bustling business started with a cold call to Mr. Robert Mondavi himself. Ken Laird created a dynamic partnership with Robert when the Mondavi winery was a mere two years old. The next 20 years proved the Laird Family knew how to grow some of the best grapes in Napa Valley.
Reasons why we love it:
- This vintage not only comes from the best of the best of Laird’s Estate Vineyards, it is sourced from their "Home Vineyard" located right in the winery’s backyard. It is perhaps the family’s favorite vineyard as year after year they get to craft a “very rich and complex” Chard under the watchful eye of the well-respected Consulting Winemaker Brian Mox.
- It’s most certainly a generous vintage from a generous family. They love sharing their craftsmanship with both new and devoted tasters. In fact, when you visit their winery you can expect one of the largest tasting flight selections in Napa. 9 or 10 wines are typically included with approximately half being their delectable, unique-in-their-own-ways Chardonnays. Is your mouth watering yet?
- If our own ravings aren’t enough, Wine Spectator awarded the Red Hen Chardonnay 6 reviews out of 8 vintages (2007 to 2014). 2014 was highlighted for its “good dimension and complexity” while 2013 was “well-focused and persistent on the finish.” We can’t wait to see how this latest vintage fares among the critics as we are already dazzled by its rich flavors and layers of complexity.
Pale golden color introduces aromas of honeysuckle, juicy peach, and vanilla waffle cone. The creamy palate, layered with complex flavors of apple pie, lemon custard, and just a hint of charred oak, has a delightful lingering finish.
From the winery: Our story begins nearly 64 years ago outside of South Boston Virginia as 12-year-old Ken Laird drove his mule wagon through tight rows of sticky, fit-to-be-harvested tobacco leaves. As the gooey bundles were thrown up onto the wagon, little Ken led his mule team to the curing barn. It was there, with his grandmother, great uncles, and cousins, they would stoke smoky curing fires for their prized tobacco. Ken would be the third-generation Laird to carry on the farming tradition.
While growing up to be a big-city mechanical engineer in New York City, Ken held on to family tradition by buying his first Napa Valley parcel in 1970. This neglected piece of land, adjacent to Tubbs Lane in Calistoga, held 70 acres of worn-down prune trees. With Prohibition 40 years gone and Napa Valley positioned to re-emerge as viticulturally significant, Ken decided to develop the orchard into a grape vineyard. While knowing just short of nothing about viticulture, Ken was also $150,000.00 short to properly develop the orchard into a respectable vineyard.
Picking up a tattered phone book, Ken went to the yellow pages and found eight listed wineries, Robert Mondavi being the only one he recognized. With a phone call, Robert Mondavi himself agreed to walk the property. After the two men discussed soils, vines, yields, irrigation, and proper pruning, Robert agreed to finance a deal with Ken if he would plant 50% Gamay. The deal was struck with a resulting vineyard of 50% Gamay and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr. Mondavi guaranteeing Ken’s Cabernet “to be the highest harvest price paid in the Valley.” The support and encouragement of Robert Mondavi would allow Ken to return to his passion: his family farming heritage.
This wine pairs well with poached or grilled seafood, shrimp or crab with spicy aioli, baby greens tossed in citrus honey vinaigrette, avocados, fruit salsa, shaved fennel, tangerines and triple crme cheeses.