Gold Medal - Grand Harvest Awards
California Chardonnay as taken a beating from some in the wine press over the last few years, as the once popular rich, buttery, full-bodied wines people came to expect fell out of favor. While Chardonnay can certainly be produced this way, and still is by some, Chardonnay is a wonderfully diverse grape, capable of many different styles of wine, and it really shines when made in cooler climates with a more restrained touch, allowing mineral accents and good acidity to lift the juicy fruit flavors. Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is just such a cooler climate, and is home to some wonderful Chardonnay.
Today’s Heist features Athair Winery’s 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Athair is a relatively new, small family owned operation, crafting wines from all over Sonoma County. The 2008 Chardonnay is pale straw in color, very light for a Chardonnay. The nose offers fresh pear and green apple, with just a hint of toasty oak from the 25% new wood used. While un-oaked Chardonnay is gaining in popularity, Chardonny does well with a little bit of wood to add an extra dimension of flavor. The palate is very intense, with complex flavors of apple, citrus, melon, lemon, peach and slate. This wine has great varietal character, with Chardonnay’s exuberant fruit allowed to shine, and good acidity to maintain balance and ease pairing with food. Perfect as a light summer sipper, or with milder cheese like Brie or Camembert, this is one to stock up on for the warm weather!
Tom Keith, President
In 1977, Tom Keith discovered the Threshold of Heaven, Sonoma Valley, California. Over the past thirty years, while raising his three children here, he honed his skills as an amateur winemaker. The fruits of his labor and his passion for winemaking led to medals being awarded for all of his varietals, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
After 34 years of operating an International Men's Apparel business, Tom had an "Ah-Ha" moment and made a major life change. He had an opportunity to follow his dreams, which were to direct his energies into the wine industry. It is with this purpose that he and his son-in-law, Jim, began the journey with Pinot Noir as their first release in 2006.
Jim McMahon, Winemaker
Jim McMahon, WinemakerJim was raised in Sonoma and attended college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, majoring in Biology. Trying to find a career that built upon his major, Jim explored the wine industry. After working his first harvest in 1997 at a Central Coast Winery, it was apparent to him that he had found his niche. He moved home to the Sonoma Valley and started working at Kenwood Winery. It was at Kenwood that Jim received his ‘formal’ training in winemaking. Starting as a lab tech, he soon moved up the ranks to Assistant Winemaker. After almost nine years at Kenwood, Jim decided it was time to move on to a different winery and a different valley, which brought him to Luna Vineyards in Napa. Jim is currently the Winemaker at Luna.
In 2002, Jim met the love of his life, Courtney, whom he wed in 2004. In this union, Jim also met his business partner, Tom Keith, Courtney’s father. They quickly realized they shared a passion for wine in Tom’s cellar, and Athair was born.
Jim’s approach to making wine begins with quality fruit and solid winemaking skills. These fundamentals are critical to creating a good wine. However, to Jim, combining them with passion and pouring his heart and soul into the process is how a good wine becomes something special and superb.
Learn more at www.athairwine.com.