"Eccentric Genius"
1995 Kalin Chardonnay Cuvée W

Posted by Joe Salamone

“Invariably some of California’s greatest Grand Cru Chardonnay bottlings” - John Gilman, View from the Cellar

Kalin Cellars is an enigma on many levels. They are one of three or four California Chardonnays that age for decades upon decades. As Gilman's quote above makes clear, they are also some of the greatest expressions of classically styled Cali Chardonnay.

And still, a twenty-year old bottle ex-cellar costs about the same as mid-range bottles of current vintage Cali Chardonnay.

This only begins to explain the independent path that Kalin has set off on since it began in 1977. Antonio Galloni has called Kalin's Terry Leighton an "eccentric genius". That's an apt two word summary.

At the heart of Kalin's philosophy is waiting to release wines when they enter their prime drinking window. The 1995 Chardonnay Cuvée W is the current release. Very few producers are able to follow such a protocol. The easy comparison is López de Heredia Rioja. The comparison is helpful, too, because Kalin's wines possess a similar deliberately oxidative profile and all the complexity that it brings.

Kalin's Chardonnays are profoundly singular - deeply nuanced and complicated with a vibrant core of acidity. They are undoubtedly challenging wines, but they are thrilling and haunting ones as well.

Today marks only our second offering of Kalin's wines. As much as we admire everything that Kalin releases, there are vintages and bottlings that really blow us away. The '95 W is one of them. We tasted it among 20 wines from around the world and it was a clear standout. The 95's balance is incredible: there's an amazingly complex and explosive fruit profile combined with a vibrancy and freshness. It's rare that we've witnessed a wine full of both of these with such finely calibrated harmony.

It's clear that Terry Leighton is incredibly thoughtful and has an independent streak. You don't have to look any further than the vineyard source for Cuvée W, the Wente Estate in Livermore Valley. While the very gravelly Livermore Valley may not have much of a profile today, it was a very important pre-prohibition fine wine area. Just after prohibition, the Wente family brought Chardonnay cuttings from Louis Latour's Corton-Charlemagne vines which subsequently led to the Wente Clone, a clone prized by producers like Arnot-Roberts.

I'm going to bring this to a close. Kalin is such a fascinating producer and the '95 Cuvée W is so impressive that it would be easy to fill up three times as much space. To wrap things up, I should say that there are few wines that offer this combination of age, provenance, and fascination for the price. At twenty years, the wine still has aging potential.

To order, please email us at offers@crushwineco.com or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone

Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

1995 Kalin Chardonnay Cuvée W

John Gilman, View from the Cellar: "The 1995 vintage of Cuvée W chardonnay from Terry and Frances Leighton is the most exotic and perfumed vintage of this bottling that I have ever had the pleasure to taste. The beautifully musky nose soars from the glass in a blend of fresh apricot,. Passion fruit, musky floral tones, orange peel, a beautiful base of soil tones and a touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and vibrant, with a great core, outstanding focus and balance, excellent acidity and fine grip on the very long and complex finish. While this has plenty of secondary layers of complexity and is wide open in personality, it is also built to age and will continue to drink beautifully for at least another fifteen years."