2018 Aubert Chardonnay CIX
Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 99 RP
Another Sonoma Coast release, the 2018 Chardonnay CIX just about knocks it out of the park, offering a medium/lighter gold hue, a huge nose of ripe pineapple, caramelized pears, flower oil, nectarines, and salty minerality, full-bodied richness, integrated acidity, and a stunning finish. It’s everything you expect from a Chardonnay from Mark Aubert – stunning purity, opulence paired with freshness, incredible length, and flawless balance. Drink it over the coming decade.
Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
Lots of ripe-nectarine, lemon-curd, dried-mango and smoked-cashew aromas. Salted butter notes. Ash, too. It’s full-bodied, creamy and smooth with a gradual and graceful evolution of ripe fruit to stone and flint on the finish. Solid density. Agile. Better in a year or two.
James Suckling | 98 JS
The 2018 Chardonnay CIX Vineyard is a seamless, gorgeous beauty. Orchard fruit, mint, white pepper and floral notes all run through this super-expressive, alluring Chardonnay from Mark Aubert. In the glass, the CIX is understated and nuanced rather than overt. I find it absolutely mesmerizing.
Vinous Media | 94-97 VM
Restrained but immediately compelling, pretty, creamy nose. The palate dismisses the dairy notes and becomes immediately more flavourful, the acidity growing in intensity and driving through to a long, succulent finish. A beautiful dance between softness and power. This wine truly appeals to me on both a personal and professional level – well crafted and deliciously delivered.
Decanter | 97 DEC
Features a steely structure, with concentrated freshly cut apple, brioche and Asian pear flavors, supported by crunchy acidity. Pure and minerally midpalate, offering a long finish that echoes with subtle sea salt and chamomile accents. Best from 2022 through 2027. 1,085 cases made.
Wine Spectator | 95 WS
Wine Details for 2018 Aubert Chardonnay CIX
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: If you're in the mood for a creative, compelling white wine, few regions can compete with California, and it's immense varietal diversity. With the pure, potent essence of grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris, these wines will stimulate your senses and arouse your intellect. Give in, and enjoy.
: Chardonnay has carved its path towards the title “king of white grapes” in subtle yet striking fashion, playing instrumental roles throughout the course of history. It was the chosen grape variety which celebrated the inception of the very first Champagne house - Ruinart, which insists “Chardonnay is the golden thread that runs through the Ruinart taste. “ “Remember men, it’s not just France we’re fighting for, it’s Champagne,” Winston Churchill. The infamous and celebrated French author, Alexandre Dumas once declared a high quality chardonnay wine from Le Montrachet was one that is only appropriate to sip “on bended knees, with head bowed.” And of course, history was made once again when a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was awarded first prize in the famous tasting of the “1976 Judgement of Paris,” changing the world’s view on California Chardonnay, inspiring vintners and altering the landscape of California winemaking forever.
The origin of the Chardonnay grape can be traced back to the small village of Macon in the Burgundy appellation of France. The varietal, whose name means “a place of thistles” in Latin, is the offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. Like most prominent grape varietals, the exact circumstances of its inception are unknown; however, it is interesting to note that Gouais Blanc originated in Germany. It is speculated that the ancient Romans, who successfully subdued the Germanic tribes in 6 AD, planted Gouais Blanc in French soil, unwittingly prompting the crossbreeding of the two varietals. If this is the case, the history of the Chardonnay grape goes back much further.
The Noble Chardonnay grape variety is most happy in the winegrowing appellation of Burgundy, its home and birth place. Burgundy’s grand Terroir of marl limestone soils and cool climate allows the Chardonnay grape to express itself to its full zenith. Interestingly, the varietal is extremely flexible and can adapt to a wide diversity of soils, allowing the terroir in which it grows to dictate the qualities of the grape and thus revealing a multitude of personalities. For instance, there are subtle yet distinguishing differences in terroir in the Burgundian villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chablis, Meursault, Corton Charlemagne, Macon, etc. which are all fashioned in their own unique way. The difference in each Climat or Lieu-dit, such as Le Montrachet (Puligny-Montrachet) and Valmur (Chablis) can take one further down the proverbial “rabbit-hole” and into the wonderful, yet complex world of Burgundy wines. However, Burgundy is but one prime growing location for this tremendously adaptable grape variety.
The spread of Chardonnay would eventually take root in Champagne, where it excelled in the region’s cool climate and chalky, sub-soils. For top Champagne producers, it became the main ingredient in their high quality, high profile Blanc de Blancs. It would also begin to be blended with the two other acceptable varietals of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (red skinned grapes). The chardonnay grape is now planted in 10,000 of the 34,000 hectares of Champagne.
Chardonnay would find its way to California in the late 1800’s but would remain obscure for more than a century due to ignorance of the varietal and lack of knowledge on how to marry it with appropriate terroir. Things changed in the 1970’s when Chardonnay saw a resurgence world-wide, mostly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris. The unthinkable happened when a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena bested some of Burgundy’s finest chardonnay offerings from Batard-Montrachet and Meursault. This event helped place California on the map, changing the face of California winemaking forever. It rejuvenated the cultivation of the Chardonnay grape variety, which saw an exponential growth world-wide.
Much like the climats of Burgundy which have their own unique terroir, Chardonnay’s adaptability has found a home in the diverse appellations, terroirs and climates of California. The cool climate locations produce crisp wines with Burgundian nuances, while warmer climates produce wines with opulent, ripe fruit reminiscent of pineapple, mango and papaya. Terroir also dictates the personality, steel and concrete tanks versus oak, and the list goes. From buttery, oak-infused heady wines to crisp, refreshing cool climate fashioned Chardonnays, the grape variety can be extremely modified. There are not enough letters in Microsoft Word to demonstrate all the different nuances, qualities, differences of terroir, climate and winemaking techniques that would encompass in full, the details of the Chardonnay grape.
The well-travelled grape varietal of Chardonnay has become the fascination of consumers around the world, becoming the most written about of all grapes. Today, it is planted in over 40 countries, amassing an impressive 211,000 hectares (500,000 acres) across the globe. From Burgundy to Champagne, Napa to Sonoma, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, Chardonnay graces vineyards around the world, captivating its audience with its multiple personalities. “So powerful is the ‘C-word’ on a wine label,” as the famed Jancis Robinson exclaimed. Since its discovery in Macon, this C-word has become a dominant force in the world of wine, changing history, winemaking and the understanding of winegrowing and its powerful attributes to a single varietal.
: As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
: With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.
Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
: When it comes to single varietal winemaking in California, especially the world renowned red and white grapes of Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it takes an impressive amount of diligence and wine knowledge to be successful. Mark Aubert displays both when crafting his award winning wines, which have nearly elevated him to Cult Chardonnay status. He has become one of the hottest Chardonnay producers in California and often leaves collectors and enthusiasts nearly speechless with desire.
Though Pinot Noir is produced by Aubert, he possesses a very dear fondness for Chardonnay. In particular he has been enamored by the wines of Domaine Leflaive and the quality that precedes its reputation. Domaine Leflaive, which hails from Burgundy with a lofty reputation can be described as one of the truest, purest expressions of Chardonnay and has been a large contributor to Aubert’s efforts. He claims Leflaive has a fanatical upbringing of vines which has inspired him to be more diligent in the vineyard.
Aubert takes great pride in his winemaking and believes that the fundamental ideal to its success is rooted in a relationship with the land; it’s about the soil, about growing, about nurturing, about farming. The winemaking team looks to nature for guidance and science for insight in crafting wine with minimal intervention so that each bottling is a true reflection of its terroir. Aubert’s philosophical approach is simple, “the purity you taste in my wines reflect the work I don’t put into them.” Which is clever because you may not know how to do something, but you very well may know how NOT to do something; an ideal that only a master winemaker has learned through experience and many failings.
Aubert debuted his Ritchie Chardonnay in 2000 and has since expanded his resume to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from his estate as well as purchased grapes in Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley, which are revered as some of the best in California. He produces hedonistic Chardonnays made to age for a decade or longer, from nine different vineyards, including the esteemed Hudson, Larry Hyde & Sons, Lauren and UV-SL, amongst others. His Pinot Noirs are crafted with just as much care and diligence and are harvested from three separate vineyards, CIX, UV and UV-SL. Like his Chardonnay, Aubert’s Pinot Noirs have become quite popular and are a “go to” for lovers of intense, full bodied, full throttle styled Pinot Noirs that possess complex soil-borne aromatics and structure.
Each vineyard has a unique soil structure and is expressed through the wine itself. From the sloping hillsides of the Lauren and Park Avenue Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast dwelling on an ancient seabed and subsoil to the Eastside Vineyard in Russian River Valley, where rocky hills and cobbled soil is rewarded with small concentrated clusters of grapes where the vines struggle to produce each year. The terroir is closely examined but dictated by nature itself. Aubert has become extraordinarily successful with his minimalist approach to winemaking. 10,000 cases are produced annually, of which 75% are Chardonnay. The wines are strictly sold via mailing list. If you are not already on that mailing list, there is a waiting list for that too.
Those fortunate enough to obtain the wines of Aubert will be left breathless. The wine will take you to Sonoma Coast and dip your hands in the dirt with every taste. Aubert’s enthrallment and appreciation of Domaine Leflaive and the purity of a single variety is certainly reasonable given the prestige and allure of one of the greatest domains in Burgundy; however, what Aubert has accomplished in California is now being recognized and enamored by collectors and enthusiast around the world.