2012 Fox Run Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

8 09 2016

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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The ultimate value Chardonnay? Quite possibly.

Casting my eyes on this maroon label sends me back down memory lane, to what seems like forever ago but was really only about three and a half months.  In May I was lucky enough to pay a visit to the beautiful and unspoiled Finger Lakes region in central New York State – you may remember this because I basically wrote a Lonely Planet book about the area on this site when I got back.  Our very last winery on that winery-intensive voyage was one I already knew well thanks to its expanding presence in the wine scene in Calgary some 3,600 km away:  Fox Run Vineyards, which has acted both as a gateway drug and as a proud brand ambassador for the Finger Lakes in Alberta.  They have taken to this role so well that one of their whites was an official bottle of choice at the Calgary Stampede this year; can’t get much more YYC than that.  

Fox Run is made up of 50 acres of estate vineyards due south of Geneva, New York, on the western shores of Seneca Lake, the largest and deepest of the long, thin Finger Lakes.  The site was previously a long-time dairy farm, but grapes were first planted there in 1984, with a winemaking facility following in 1990.  Present owner Scott Osborn took over in 1993 and has been a fixture since, and the crazy thing is that he isn’t even the biggest example of the winery’s clear commitment to continuity:  vineyard manager John Kaiser was responsible for first developing the vineyards back in 1984 and is still there today – I met both men when I was there.  Winemaker Peter Bell is 21 years into his Fox Run career, and Sales Manager Dan Mitchell, who is more or less a permanent resident of Canada at this point after forging a successful new northern market for the FLX over the past few years, has been there for 12.  They are a family at this point, and it shows.    

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Fox Run’s strengths lie in consistent, high-quality yet value-priced wines that are true to themselves and their home soils:  diverse and distinctive Riesling, remarkably ageworthy Lemberger, and a surprising array of fortified wines (FLX Port, anyone)?  But if you were to ask me, I would say that their most impressive and alluring wines (and their biggest competitive advantage) might be their Chardonnays.  If you were to ask Peter Bell, I suspect he might not say that; I also suspect he might try to punch me in the face for saying that.  But what they can do with the grape eclipses anything else in the State and almost anything I have seen at the same price point.  I don’t know if Chard is a primary point of focus at the estate, but it’s all I can think about for days after I have a bottle, so they absolutely have something world-class going on with this grape.

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Cork Review: 5.5/10 (Love the logo, but the fox needs some room to run – they may need a longer cork to house this kind of glory.)

This particular Chardonnay is a treat because it’s (now) a back vintage treasure, officially off the market in Alberta in favour of the new and awesome 2013, which I tasted and wrote up with my winery tour.  Fox Run’s Reserve Chardonnay is a single-vineyard offering from the Kaiser Vineyard (named for their venerable viticulturist John), an incredible breezy site right out front of the winery that angles down toward the lake.  Unlike their Doyle Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay, the Reserve sees maturation time in barrel and is better and more complex because of it.  The 2012 Reserve is a pale, polished golden colour and fairly aromatically exuberant for a Chardonnay, catapulting out of the glass with a could-only-be-Chard mix of golden apple, Meyer lemon, flint, candle smoke, wet gravel, Werther’s Originals caramels and prickly spice.  There’s something elegant and eerily Burgundian (maybe that label colour means something after all) about how the fruit, oak and rockier mineral aromas integrate and meld together, without any gaps or holes, and yet somehow also retain their distinct identity.  Great wines always have me thinking in contradictions, and this is no exception.

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Similar apple-cinnamon, burnt honey and lemon drop flavours follow through to the palate, joined by roasted pecan nuttiness and a hint of vanilla bean, but also a piercing clean marine freshness, like seashells or river spray (lake spray in this case, I suppose).  The full but hardly languid body features enough acid to keep things vibrant and gum-tickling oak tannin in the background, finishing with just a whisper of sweetness.  It’s warm and inviting but also layered and delineated, a bottle that would be equally at home at a technical tasting or a backyard barbecue.  It is clearly of the same family as the 2013 but stakes its own ground in a slightly better vintage.  Fox Run, if you’re not careful, you might just end up known as a Chardonnay house (don’t hurt me).  Bravo.

92 points

$20 to $25 CDN

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