Hello friends. I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a winery with focus.
When I walk into a winery and see eleven bottles open on the table, it takes all my mental acuity not to openly cringe (I have grown quite adept at the internal cringe. It’s that kind of repression – well, that and one too many duck confit legs – that’s going to send me to an early grave, so thanks a lot, murderous unfocused wineries).
And so when Henry Smilowicz contacted me about his new project, Array Cellars, and mentioned that it would be focused entirely on Chardonnay, I was immediately intrigued (and happy; nary a cringe, external nor internal).
I have strong convictions that it’s focused projects like this that are the vanguard for exploring the best that Washington can do with certain varietals. Chardonnay has always struck me as something of an afterthought here in Washington. A lot of questionable clones were planted in the early days, and the results are kinda gross, unless you like liquefied bananas foster.
There are a handful of wineries who have consistently taken Chardonnay seriously (Woodward Canyon, Abeja, Buty, and Efeste come to mind), but they’re in the minority, and even in all those cases, Chardonnay is one wine in much larger overall portfolios.
For Array Cellars, Chardonnay is *the* wine. And when Henry revealed his roster of vineyards, it became immediately clear that this is someone with a true passion for Washington Chardonnay: Celilo, Conner Lee, Dionysus, Otis, and Stillwater Creek. All five of those sites would easily make a list of Washington’s top ten Chardonnay vineyards, so Array is working with some serious fruit.
While future vintages will have multiple bottlings that delve into single vineyards and clonal selections, Henry (along with consulting winemakers Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi) decided to just bottle one wine from 2010. It includes fruit from Conner Lee, Dionysus, and Stillwater, and it was fermented mostly with ambient yeasts and raised in 30% new French oak.
The aromatics mix old world and new world but could only be Chardonnay: biscuit, lemon curd, smoke, nutmeg, hazelnut. Loads of aromatic complexity for this tariff. And then on the palate, the complexity continues. There is plenty of fruit (creamy apples, lemon oil), but it’s the notes of earth and smoke that really enchant, and the overall sense of balance and harmony that just seem impossible for this price point.
A fine debut, and an exciting new entrant on the Washington wine scene. I know it’s on the menu at the Capital Grille and Rainier Club, but I’m not sure if any other retailers in town have picked it up yet. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.