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  • The Press Democrat “Wine of the Week”

    The Press Democrat

    by Peg Melnik
    June 23, 2020

    “Wine of the Week”

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay

    “There’s a paradoxical unity in social distancing. Who knew the pandemic would make many feel so connected, like kindred spirits?

    ‘At the winery, I would say being distanced from one another has brought us closer,’ said Heidi Bridenhagen, the winemaker of MacRostie Winery. ‘We’re in this together and it has brought out the best in everyone. The amount of empathy and understanding has been amazing.’

    The philosophical winemaker who sees the upside in this pandemic is behind our wine of the week winner – the 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay at $36.

    Rich, yet balanced, this chardonnay has a blend of enticing tropical and citrus notes. It has aromas and flavors of green apple, papaya and lime. The wine begins with aromas of toffee, with citrus notes just beneath, and follows it through to the palate. The MacRostie has a lush texture, yet finishes crisp. It’s an impressive wine and a steal for this caliber of chardonnay.

    Other top-rated chardonnays to consider include: Gary Farrell, 2017 West Side Farms, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, $55; Jordan, 2018 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, $35; Goldschmidt’s Singing Tree, 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $18 and Crossbarn, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $27.

    As for the MacRostie chardonnay, Bridenhagen said it was a delight to craft.

    ‘This wine is my winemaker’s playground,’ she said. ‘We work with so many iconic growers in the valley — the Duttons, Martinellis, Bacigalupis, Kent Ritchie, Charles Heintz and more. Each site is a small slice of chardonnay heaven, and with our Russian River Valley chardonnay I don’t have to stick to one specific vineyard. I can play with the diverse flavor and aromas from each vineyard and layer them together into what I feel embodies a great Russian River chardonnay.’

    Making wine during a pandemic complicates logistics, but Bridenhagen isn’t losing sleep. Winemaking has made her an experienced tactician.

    ‘My job as a winemaker is a constant series of decision making, which is something I consider myself good at,’ she said. ‘So taking the pandemic and assessing each situation individually – is this action high-risk? Can I make it medium- or low-risk? – is just another layer to consider and address.’

    Bridenhagen, 36, joined MacRostie in 2011 after working at Vinwood Cellars, a Geyserville production facility owned by Jackson Family Wines. She earned a degree in biochemistry and a minor in chemistry in 2006 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    The winemaker likes the mysteries intrinsic even in a mainstream grape like chardonnay.

    ‘Many people have assumptions about what chardonnay tastes like, but chardonnay is incredibly versatile and has a huge breath of expression,’ Bridenhagen said.

    The masked winemaking team sits 10 feet apart from each other when discussing wines.

    ‘Winemaking is an incredibly familial environment,’ Bridenhagen said. ‘It feels strange to not be able to hug, share a glass of wine and a meal with my co-workers or a shift beer at the end of a long day that was particularly rewarding. That said, winemaking has been going on for thousands of years and it continues even during a pandemic.’”