The concept of counterparts is a straightforward one. Such as: action and reaction, night and day, male and female, and so on. Not necessarily exact opposites, but corresponding differences. This adds definition by contrast, keeps things in balance, helps us to appreciate variety. There are many examples of counterparts in the world of wine, as in nature and everywhere else; but truly one of the most classic and precise examples to be found, is that of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Both are grapes, both hail distantly from the same genetic family, both are enjoyed all over the globe: arguably the two single best known grape varieties worldwide. Chardonnay is a white wine grape; Pinot Noir is a red wine grape. Chardonnay is prolific bordering on ubiquitous while Pinot Noir is the elusive heart breaker of countless winemakers the world over. More often than not they are found in the same growing areas, and in Burgundy they are basically the be all and end all of all wine making bar none.

I happen to enjoy both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and recently tasted two excellent examples from Hartford Court in California’s Sonoma Valley. Hartford Court is a very limited production winery that focuses heavily on single estate bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Production of these special wines can range from 800 cases to less than 100 cases.

The Hartford Court Stone Cote Vineyard Chardonnay 2005: produced in 100% French oak, 60% of which is new oak. The wine is clear with a deep golden straw colour that fades slightly around the rim. The nose is moderate and layered with youthful and slightly developed characteristics. It offers creamed corn, vanilla, lime, sweet hazelnut and citrus notes. The palate is dry and medium-full bodied and well-balanced with flavours of spice, toast, white citrus fruits, and a rich buttered biscuit character that lingers well.

The Hartford Court Fog Dance Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005: produced in 100% French oak, 55% of which is new oak. The wine is clear, and shows a pale ruby colour that fades to a slightly ruddy rim. Youthful as well a slightly developed aromatics rise from the glass showing sweet leather, stewed strawberry, woodspice and wet cherry blossom. The palate is dry, medium weight with juicy acidity and gently balanced tannins. Loads of flavours are present giving juicy red berry fruit, hints of sweet beets, tangy cherry, earthy spiciness, and a long warm finish.

Both excellent wines in their own right, as well as fine examples of the “yin and yang” of red and white wines. So even as we head ever closer to colder weather remember to balance your wine enjoyment with both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, (or whatever counterparts you love best!).


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