87% Chardonnay, 5% Viognier, 3% Malvasia
The wine is named “Sur Lies” (pronounced lees), after the dead yeast cells (lies) which settle to the bottom of fermentation tanks. If these cells are agitated (usually by the winemaker stirring the vat), the wine will take on some of the qualities of the yeasts, giving additional richness, complexity and a toasty quality.
Only one third of the wine that goes into the final blend is aged in oak barrels, the rest sits in stainless steel tanks. The two wines are then blended together in order to let the fruit show through, with only a little oak character.
The first vineyards at Biltmore were established in 1971 in an area below Biltmore House. Obscure French-American hybrids were planted initially, with more well-known Vitis Vinifera (Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay etc. ) plantings following in a few years.
The annual grape harvest at the Biltmore is 250 tons.
The grapes for this wine are spilt between Mendocino County (California) at 87% and North Carolina at 12%. The wine is therefore labeled with an American appellation, and therefore by law is not allowed to carry a vintage date on the bottle. The wine I am tasting is from the 2008 harvest however.
Chardonnay is the most dominant grape variety in Mendocino County by a long shot., but red grapes generally dominate. The 5 most plated grapes are: Chardonnay 4,656 acres, Cabernet Sauvignon 2,432 acres, Pinot Noir 2,251, Zinfandel 2010 and Merlot 1,727. For anyone not down with the “farm lingo”, an acre is 43,560 square feet, and therefore Chardonnay plantings would be around 7.2 miles.
North Carolina is home to more than 90 wineries. The number of wineries have more than quadrupled since 2001.
North Carolina ranks around 7th or 8th for wine production in the United States (depending on which stat’s you read). Behind the usual suspects on the West Coast, are New York, Michigan and Kentucky. Based on facts from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau for 2009.
Tropical fruit, butter, toast, a slight amount of oak and a little vanilla on the nose. The palate reveals more in the way of apricot, pear, pineapple, a touch of yeast, and lemon, yielding a short and smooth finish. Very easy drinking, great if you are looking for a Chardonnay that isn’t an oak monster!
Due to the Biltmore Sur Lies Chardonnay not having too much of an oak influence, it’s going to make it much more versatile from a food pairing standpoint. Due to the richness of the wine, you can try it with roast chicken, lobster with a butter sauce, shellfish, pork, pasta / pizza with a white sauce, risotto, and mild cheeses.