“Returning from Napa Valley last fall, I reflect on one of the most memorable visits during this week-long sojourn. While I profess to be totally consumed with red wines for most of the year, my visit to the unassuming Hyde de Villaine (HdV) Winery on the fringes of Napa provided me with a perspective of some of the most expressive and stylistic Chardonnays that I have tasted during my career. It was rather peculiar to be touring the rolling hills of Northern California and tasting Chardonnays that are reminiscent of the great whites from the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy.
“HdV Winery is a collaboration between the Hyde family of Carneros and the de Villaine family of Burgundy, France. Larry Hyde’s cousin, Pamela Fairbanks de Villaine, is married to Aubert de Villaine, who is co-owner of the infamous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) in Burgundy. This wondrous union brought together Chardonnay from one of California’s premier locations, Hype Vineyards, with the talents of Burgundy’s most influential craftsmen.
“Hyde Vineyards in Carneros are exposed to the cool confluences of the San Pablo Bay and rest on a base of well-drained, alluvial clay soils. The purity and the precise mineral expression of these grapes are sought after… The HdV wines have their own identity under French-born winemaker Stephané Vivier. He acknowledges that ‘texture is very important to Chardonnay’ and maintains the freshness in these wines while describing the wines as having a ‘mineral texture with a Napa opulence.’ There is an unmistakable pedigree and golden mineral content in all of the HdV Chardonnays. They have an alluring character that is unmatched among domestic whites and is the benchmark of quality that others try to duplicate.
“The HdV Chardonnays are sourced from 30-year-old parcels within Hyde Vineyards, aged for 12 months in French Oak, three months in stainless steel and then given 14 months of rest in the bottle before release. The 2009 and 2010 HdV Chardonnays are both in the market and relative values for the quality behind the labels. The 2009 is precocious in style and comes from a warmer vintage in Carneros. It displays a more forward character at this point with lemon meringue cream, minerals and honeyed pears.
“The 2010 is a bit restrained with layers of intense lemon meringue and orange citrus oil intertwined with candied limes, stone fruits and a layering of delicate toast. Each of these wines display incredible harmony and balance, and will benefit from some additional cellaring. It is hard to imagine how much more complex and attractive these wines will become over time, but it may be worth buying several bottles if you don’t have the willpower to wait. I’m certain your patience will be rewarded.”