16 Nov Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Lepe Cellars 2020 Chardonnay, River Ranch Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County
Chardonnay is a neutral grape. When a winemaker takes a minimal approach, the grape will reflect where it is grown. and that is what captured me as I sipped the Lepe Cellars 2020 Chardonnay from the Carmel Valley AVA in Monterey County, the Please The Palate wine of the week.
Miguel Lepe never thought he would be a winemaker. But all it took was one class to change his life. Miguel was going to community college in Salinas with the intention to transfer to San Diego State to major in business. Looking for classes to take to fulfill units in order to transfer, a vineyard management class caught his eye. This class was way over his head and very challenging but Miguel was intrigued.
Miguel ended up going to school at Cal Poly. His first experience was working for Claiborne & Churchill Winery in San Luis Obispo. After graduation in 2013, Miguel thought he would make wine for someone else. He went to work for Peter Figge at Figge Cellars where he was one of Peter’s first interns. He was young and still learning and had no interest in making his own brand. But, in his first year with Figge, Peter asked Miguel if he wanted to make wine and helped him source Gewurztraminer. Then in 2014, Peter asked Miguel again if he wanted to make wine that vintage. When Miguel said yes, Peter suggested he get a commercial license so that he could sell what he made.
Over the years, Miguel has learned a lot from working for various wineries. He has made single varietal wines and blends; he has worked at big wineries and small ones. With all of these experiences, he narrowed in on what he wanted to do. At Lepe Cellars, Miguel enjoys working with single varietal wines. He works with small vineyards and only sources fruit from Monterey County. His goal is to make the best wines he can from within the region.
Making just under 1000 cases, Miguel take a minimal approach to to make wines that are balanced and flow evenly across the palate. His wines are leaner in style, letting the fruit speak for itself.
The Lepe Cellars 2020 Chardonnay is from the Carmel Valley AVA in Monterey County. Miguel sources his Chardonnay from 1 acre planted in the River Ranch Vineyard, which is 6 miles from the Monterey Bay. The coastal influence brings in cold air which results in high acidity in the grapes. The Chardonnay undergoes full malolactic fermentation and is aged on the lees for 10 months in neutral barrels.
The resulting wine has aromas of green apples, citrus, honeysuckle, and minerality which comes through on the palate. The wine has a lovely texture and bright acidity and retails for $36. Sipping the Lepe Cellars 2020 Chardonnay, Carmel Valley AVA reminds me why I always say “A-B-C” – ALWAYS Bring Chardonnay!