Charles Heintz Chardonnay 2021

Producer: Senses Wines
Region: Sonoma County
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Country: USA
Classification: AVA
Wine Type: White
Variety: Chardonnay
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Alcohol: 14.4%
Soil: Sandy loam
Farming Practices: Sustainable
Awards: 97-Robert Parker
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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 here, with 2000 acres under vine planted almost exclusively to Burgundy varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The widely varying terroir 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 provide 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. The 2021 vintage was a beauty for Sonoma Coast winegrowers, coming on the heels of the disastrous 2020 wildfires. The wines retained tons of freshness, while the long, dry days provided ample punch. The Charles Heintz Chardonnay was no exception, with lower yields than normal, but great density of flavour.


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.


Grapes are hand-harvested in the cool of morning, from the best sites of this iconic vineyard. The fruit is hand-sorted, to ensure only the best quality is used for this wine. After a cold soak on the skins, for a few days, to pick up flavours and aromatics, the juice is fermented in French oak barriques (30% new) utilizing indigenous yeasts. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation in barrel and then is given 14 months of aging on the lees with intermittent stirring to garner more complexity before bottling.

Tasting Notes 

A brilliant golden hue with intense aromatics of biscuit, almond, ginger, mandarin orange, and butterscotch. Despite clocking in at 14.4% alc./vol., it is surprisingly elegant, with a good core of fresh acidity and stony minerality, signature to this vineyard. Ripe citrus notes are joined by pear, vanilla and apricot flavours, all underlay with salt spray salinity. A stunning, decadent Chardonnay. Chill only lightly and enjoy with seared scallops, Mussels in white wine and cream or with a bowl of buttered popcorn!