In releasing our “Wine of the Week,” Lieb Cellars 2015 Reserve Chardonnay ($24), the winery has brought back an old customer favorite — but with a bit of a fresh perspective.
This is the first reserve chardonnay Lieb has produced since the new ownership and management teams took over in 2013, but it’s not because they don’t like chardonnay.
“We had an overstock of Reserve Chardonnay and wanted to catch up before we produced more,” winemaker Russell Hearn told me.
That fresh perspective comes from Hearn’s winemaking decisions. While Lieb’s previous reserve chardonnays were made with 80 to 100 percent oak barrel fermentation, only 60 percent of the 2015 was fermented in a barrel, and only 20 percent of that oak was new, super-flavorful oak.
“The 2015 Reserve Chardonnay was intended to be more in line with our current house style which is cleaner, brighter and more pronounced fruit,” Hearn said. “That’s the direction we’ve moved in with all of our wines and the type of wine that the team and I like to drink.”
Make no mistake, there is plenty of oak-born flavor here, but this isn’t a butter bomb. Nor does it taste like a wood shop smells. The oak comes through as a rich spiciness — think clove and nutmeg — that adds complexity to still-bright notes of pear, roasted apple and pineapple, as well as just a lick of vanilla on the end of a medium-long finish.
Most importantly, the 40 percent stainless steel portion brings a brightness to the fruit and to the mouthfeel. There’s nice acidity here instead of overwhelming heft and flabbiness.
Drink it with roast chicken and pour it for your beer-loving friend who favors hefeweizen. There are some similar flavors here. It could create a wine lover.
This wine is available for $24 at the Lieb Cellars tasting room on Oregon Road in Cutchogue.