2012 Chardonnay Reserve
Named for the two forces of nature that strongly influence this wine: sea (mer) and sun (soleil)
In our pursuit to make the finest Californian Chardonnay we could, my dad Chuck Wagner planted our first chardonnay vines in 1988 in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County. This would go on to become a small winery with a single vineyard bottling called Mer Soleil. A few vines gradually became a few acres, as we increased our vineyard little by little, planting to achieve the highest quality. The first bottling of Mer Soleil Chardonnay was from the 1992 vintage and released in 1995. The name meaning “sea sun” is fitting, as the Monterey Bay is nearby so the climate is highly influenced by the Pacific Ocean and the sun seems to never stop shining on this vineyard. From the outset, the clones of Chardonnay were chosen for low yield and high quality, with the goal to produce a rich, balanced and complex white wine.
What makes this an exceptional site for growing Chardonnay is the unusual weather, which for our purpose suits us well. The writer John Steinbeck said it best when he wrote, “I’ve lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate.” Simply spend one full day at Mer Soleil and you’ll experience the phenomena of nature that occurs in this very special place. The Santa Lucia Highlands sits on terraces overlooking the Salinas River Valley. During the growing season, warmer temperatures of inland California pulls ocean air and fog into the valley just below the Mer Soleil vineyard location. The Monterey Bay actually cools the entire Salinas Valley protecting the vines from California’s potential heat spikes that can be devastating for Chardonnay. This appellation is known for the wild daily winds running through it at the clip of 20 miles per hour. These conditions have a “slow ripening” effect on the grapes and encourage higher quality wine. Santa Lucia Highlands is arguably one of the best regions in the world for producing Chardonnay.
2012 was truly an excellent year to be a winemaker in California. In the Santa Lucia Highlands the weather was near perfect, with an even growing season that was free of heat spikes and with very little rain, allowing for full ripening and an abundant harvest.
Our goal at Mer Soleil is to let the Monterey sunshine express itself through our grapes. The wines are creamy, rich and balanced with lively acidity. The wine is fermented and aged in French oak barrels for 12-15 months prior to bottling. Only a portion of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation, to ensure a bright natural acidity. We practice hand stirring of the barrels to capture more essence and impart a creamy textural component.
Golden-hued in color, the wine opens with opulent aromas of peach, apple, Meyer lemon and baking spices. The palate is an inviting medley of peach and D’Anjou pear; layered with tropical notes of pineapple and banana. The vibrant acidity is well balanced by warm butterscotch and subtle coconut notes that seamlessly meld together to create a luscious, mouth-filling richness. It is medium to full-bodied with a refreshing burst of minerality and well-integrated oak characteristics that offer a round, lengthy finish.
Winemaker and Viticulturist