Wine Advocate 99
"A tank sample, the 2018 Chardonnay Belle Cote comes from a block planted to Old Wente and See Clone selections. In fact, this is from the oldest, 1990 plantings on the estate. Wow—the nose explodes from the glass with powerful scents of guava, quince, tangerine and lime blossoms plus touches of ginger ale, peach cobbler and crème caramel with a waft of struck flint. Medium-bodied, the palate features laser precision with a racy line cutting through the intense, tightly wound, mineral-laced fruit, finishing long and zesty. Should age incredibly! 3,100 cases are due to be made."
The 2018 growing season began with abundant winter rainfall. Spring weather was cool and blooming, while delayed a bit, took place in almost perfect conditions resulting in a generous fruit set. The vines were vigorous thanks to the winter rains. Aggressive canopy management and fruit thinning brought the crop into optimal balance. Summer temperatures were moderate with no severe heat spikes. An extended Indian summer allowed our Chardonnay to gradually reach perfect ripeness. The moderate temperatures permitted a gradual harvest, resulting in an elegant, bountiful vintage with classic flavors and excellent concentration.
As the oldest of the four Peter Michael estate Chardonnay vineyards, Belle Côte exemplifies how consistently these mountain vineyard sites produce exceptionally high-quality Chardonnay. Given the naturally cool climate of the vineyard’s high elevation, and the fact that the site is sheltered from the hot afternoon sun by its southeastern exposure and a stand of trees on its western border, the vines are exceptionally slow to ripen. For this site, the growing season typically extends into October, two to three weeks longer than most Chardonnay vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties.
WINEMAKER’S TASTING NOTES
The nose is distinctly powerfully hedonistic and intense with aromas of rose petal, lychee nut, orange blossom and acacia, with a background of mineral, yellow peach, candied orange, greengage, toasted almond and nougat. Creamy and weighty in the mouth, the palate is seamless and rich. Accents of pain grillé, almond, honey, hazelnut and brioche, with crisp natural acidity and minerals complete the mouth feel. Approachable now, the 2018 Belle Côte will blossom with two years of cellaring and will continue to develop for a decade or more.
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Peter Michael Winery needs no introduction. Year after year their exquisite, artisan releases bring pleasure to people all over the world, and it all started in 1982 when Sir Peter Michael founded the winery on a square mile of rocky volcanic ridges on the western face of Mount St. Helena. From the beginning, the philosophy was modeled on French winemaking tradition and governed by three principles: the vineyard terroir would be the single most important feature, the wines would be lightly elegant rather than powerful and a hundred-year commitment would be made to the development of a great estate.
Peter Michael is the only winery in Knights Valley. Its original winemaker was the famous Helen Turley, followed by Mark Aubert and Luc Morlet. Currently winemaking is under the leadership of Nicolas Morlet, Luc's brother, whose extensive experience with Bordeaux and Burgundian style viticulture and winemaking lends itself well to the Peter Michael mission of producing single-vineyard, limited production bottlings from small, mountain vineyards.