Maldonado Family Vineyards is a small, family-run winery just outside of Calistoga, California, which is in the northern portion of Napa Valley. The roots of the winery trace back over four decades to when Lupe Maldonado emigrated from Mexico to the United States to farm vineyards, some of which include modern day heavyweights such as Sterling and Newton. Eventually, in 2007, Lupe purchased his own vineyard and, together with his family, built with their own hands their winemaking facility. Today, Lupe and son Hugo produce many wine varietals, including this 1,200-case 2013 MALDONADO Los Olivos Chardonnay. (Named this, because Lupe’s driveway on the vineyard where this Chardonnay is grown is lined with olive trees; the vineyard crew kept referring to the piece of land as “Los Olivos,” and the name stuck.)
The wine’s deep, golden hue catches the eye immediately. The nose exudes tropical fruit, orange marmalade and jasmine. It’s a very rich, seamless and structured wine with flavors of lemon curd, crème brulee, pineapple and fig, as well as a touch of allspice on the finish. Oak is a big component of the flavor profile, which should not come as a surprise considering the 21 months of barrel aging the wine sees. The persistent, smooth finish lasts upwards of 40 seconds. There’s no mistaking this is a Napa Valley Chardonnay—big, round and ripe—but it’s Napa Chard with a lot of heart and soul.
The business model of many a winery in the upscale regions of Napa is to employ the best winemaker and technology that money can buy. There’s nothing wrong with that, it works. But, if you seek a Chardonnay that truly embodies the American Dream and that which is obviously a labor of love, passion and pride, then you must try the Maldonado Los Olivos Chardonnay to taste the difference. –R.K.