[review]  Our company wine cellar is a little ridiculous—constantly on the lookout for new vintners and always scheduling wine tastings with the acclaimed and famed winemakers of the world, we typically only have a chance to taste once and move on to the next tasting with a wistful sigh. (Sounds pretty tough, right?). Sometimes there’s a winery that sticks with you, gets into your palate and your brain and you’re compelled to make that rare exception and repeat a winery review, if anything but to see if it was really that good or if the phantom memory has grown astronomically out of proportion. We were lured back to Tor Kenward’s winery in Napa to see if his 2011 TOR Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay was just as good as the 2010 Tor Family Cabernet Sauvignon that we were drooling over last fall. It was everything we wanted and so much more.

Tor Kenward Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay

The lovely Hudson Vineyards in Napa Valley

We asked Tor Kenward what made this vintage so special. “2011 in Napa Valley was like a year in Burgundy. It was a cool year, started cool, stayed cool, and allowed for a lot of hang time. The net result; the smallest crop I can remember in 37 years, smaller than 1988, and that was a struggle. Nature thinned one of our vineyards to 1/8 ton per acre. We opened canopies to welcome the sun in all our vineyard sites, maximizing them and avoided any botrytis problems. In the end, I think these are as good as any Chardonnays we have made, but I like years like 2011 – it brought on all the minerality and the flavors go on forever. I was quoted in the Wine Spectator after the vintage as saying, ‘I think there will be some exceptional wines, but they won’t be because of luck. They will reflect experienced growers and winemakers who took adversity and turned it to their advantage.’ I still believe this.”

Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay

Grapes used to create Tor’s delicious Chardonnay

These Chardonnays were all made in a very traditional Burgundian fashion. What does that mean? For Tor’s Chardonnays he uses native yeasts for primary and malolactic fermentations, and they don’t fine or filter the wines. “We work hard to bring the most honest and truest expressions of the vineyard to you, with the least amount of additions or subtractions.” Lee Hudson is a big part of how the relationship between grower and winemaker is an integral part of creating outstanding vino.

Lee Hudson is a meticulous farmer with a great piece of land. He has the advantage of location and rocky well-drained soils. Over the decades, Lee nurtured his vineyard, continuously fine-tuning his art, using heritage shot cluster clones, such as old Wente, and propagating his own selections from these shy-bearing clones. As vines were replaced over these years, Lee replaced them with plant material proven to make exceptional Chardon- nays from Hudson Vineyard. The block is one of the rockiest in the vineyard, a proven site with proven vines, in a great site for Chardonnay.

Tor Kenward

Tor Kenward at his Winery in Napa

The 2011 Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay is classic Hudson vineyard. This wine comes from a small block planted with Hudson selection Wente Clone and showcases the land and profile of the great Hudson Vineyard Chardonnays that have come before it.

Only 140 cases of this incredible Chardonnay were created, and it’s just about at maturity—Tor recommends aging for 3-5 to keep the perfect balance and richness fresh. It’s a medium weight with a fullness that surprises you, a bright lemon tingle on the tongue and a symphony of well blended orange peel, honey and pineapple come together for a polished classic Chardonnay with exquisite finish and poise. The intensely layered fruit and penetrating minerality is just a surprisingly lovely balance that leaves you longing for more.

Every bottle we taste from Tor Vineyards is better than the last…who knows, we might be back again.