When I got this assignment a friend in Portland said, "Al, it's going to kill you." I thought, yes, this is possible, but in the end, I ended up with a few more wrinkles and if not a little wiser, at least a lot more thoughtful. So, what DOES this character learn at the end of the play? Even though she didn't taste them all, but a good spectrum of about 50 wines from all over California, she's of the opinion that there are more styles of the wine available than a decade ago. There is less toast on the oak and far less tropical flavors and more wines that are blocking malolactic. She still found too many examples of overripe fruit under oak and too high a price. Yet this character, (that would be me)--to HER palate--(that would be mine), did taste one chardonnay she would buy. During my guest appearance stomp at Kevin Kelley's joint (Salinias and Lioco) I tasted a Chardonnay minutes old. I found it compelling. I first met Kevin through Field Maloney (then living in California researching a book or two) this past June. KK makes wine with no hanky panky. No yeast, no inoculation, not even much temperature control that doesn't have to do with the actual temperatures in and outside of his place in an industrial park. KK is going to be a true wine revolutionary. This means his whites are going to go through malolactic fermentation because that is what comes naturally. Lets shelve what I think about that until a full out malo conversation. Meanwhile, if you feel like speaking to it in the comments, please! Hold forth. The other bit of info needed here was that this Chardonnay was fermented on its skins. Skin-contact for white wines is quite the hip technique in Northern Italy as well as in the amphora wines craze. Few people use it even though, as veteran winemaker David Bruce said, "...flavoring elements are in the skin (of Chardonnay), not in the pulp of the grape." While few people use it, some are fans, such as Abe Schoener of the Scholium project (who is on this blog in video). He vinifies several compelling and controversial whites on their skins for over 30 days. But this is the first time I had the technique from American soil in a wine that has low-ish alcohol. While mulling its fresh, meyer lemon-like taste in my mouth I though,. California Chard is about the fruit. The soil (to me) does not lend it the balancing act of minerality. Skin contact seems to stand in for limestone and the result is a layered wine with yes, fruit but with interest and complexity. Is Chardonnay's salvation in its skins? I asked Kevin if he could send me a small sample after it was dry. One arrived in the mail shortly before New Years. It was still a fascinating drink. The man who was called The Owl Man was over to dinner. TOM is even more militant about wine than I am, he drank the whole thing, "I can't believe this is California," he said. Glug. Glug. When the wine goes through malo, it will change for sure. The edges will round out, the wine will gain some weight. This wine will have no wood, and no bottle. It is destined for local restaurants and delivered in refillable boxes and bought at a TBD glugable price. Let's see what happens. But it could be the beginning of an exciting time and at least a happy addition to the literature of Chardonnay.