Charles Heintz Chardonnay 2020

Producer: Senses Wines
Region: Sonoma County
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Country: USA
Classification: AVA
Wine Type: White
Variety: Chardonnay
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Alcohol: 13.6%
Soil: Sandy loam
Farming Practices: Sustainable
info@buyersandcellars.ca www.buyersandcellars.ca

Cellar Profile

Founded in 2011, Senses quickly became one of the most exciting wine projects out of the Sonoma Coast. Occidental natives and childhood friends, Christopher Strieter, Max Thieriot and Myles Lawrence-Briggs partnered with world-class winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown to produce coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Beginning with only 100 cases in their inaugural vintage, Senses currently crafts a few thousand cases of single vineyard and appellation wines. Grapes come from many renowned and family-owned vineyards including the B.A Thieriot, Terra de Promissio, Dutton Palms and Charles Heintz sites. The wines are complex, intense in flavour and beautifully balanced. All wines ferment via indigenous yeasts and are neither fined nor filtered. In the past two years, their presence in the marketplace has expanded to include placements on the menus of many Michelin-rated restaurants throughout the United States, including The French Laundry and Le Bernardin.


Sonoma Coast is one of California’s most notable wine regions. Despite the critical acclaim and steep price points these wines demand, there are only 10 wineries, with 2000 acres under vine, planted almost exclusively to Burgundy varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The widely varying terroir here is less influenced by the cooling fog that rolls in through the Petaluma Gap than its northern counterpart, the Russian River Valley. Sonoma Coast climate is dictated by the area’s sheltered position between the hills, as well as its close proximity to San Pablo Bay to the south, which provides temperature moderation in the vineyard. The unique combination of maritime influence, elevation, lack of rainfall and varied soil types exists nowhere else on earth. The area closest to the ocean, with the strongest maritime influence, has recently been granted its own sub-appellation within the larger Sonoma Coast AVA: West Sonoma Coast.


Ideal Goldridge soil, healthy, mature vines, warm days balanced with cool nights and a grower who has been working the land since 1982 all contribute to Robert Parker’s assessment of the vineyard as “… one of the great grand cru Chardonnay sites in California.” The Charles Heintz vineyard, planted in 1982, has 25 acres of clone 4 Chardonnay. In 2017, vines leapt into action with replenished water tables after years of drought. Early vegetative growth was strong, but not excessive, and crop yields were moderate. Warmer summer temperatures ended up compressing harvest for most producers. The coast was relatively protected from strong heat waves and delivered typical acid-driven fruit with great phenolic ripeness.


Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted, with the most highly-regarded expressions of the variety coming from Burgundy and California. Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavours a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California tend to give more tropical styles. While many Chardonnays have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavours.


Hand-harvested bunches, hand-selected from the best parcels of this iconic vineyard. Grapes are sorted to ensure no underripe or damaged berries are included, then cold soaked for a few days before fermentation, utilizing native yeasts, in French oak barriques (30% new). The wine spends 12 months in barrel, with intermittent lees stirring, before bottling.

Tasting Notes 

This is a top-notch example of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, balancing creaminess, nervy acidity, ripe fruits and that telltale salinity the Coast is famous for. Layers of ripe apple, pear and hints of tropical elements like papaya mingle with cashew, coconut and butterscotch. Weighty, but balanced by tingling acidity. Chill lightly and enjoy with garlic prawns, pasta primavera or simply on its own.