Tenth Stop Chardonnay 2018

Producer: Senses Wines
Region: Sonoma County
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Country: USA
Classification: AVA
Wine Type: White
Variety: Chardonnay
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Alcohol: 14.1%
Soil: Goldridge sandy loam
Farming Practices: Sustainable
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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 the largest AVAs in Sonoma, covering the mountains along the Pacific coast from the border with Mendocino County to the top of San Pablo Bay. Despite its name, the Sonoma Coast AVA stretches quite a long way inland. Climatically speaking, the Sonoma Coast is decidedly maritime and is cooler and wetter than the rest of Sonoma County. This is, perhaps obviously, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the cooling fog that creeps into the coastal valleys via the Petaluma Gap during the summer. As a result of the cool climate, the distribution of grape varieties differs noticeably from that found in the drier, warmer climes inland. The Burgundy family are out in force here – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay together account for more than 75 percent of the AVA’s wines.


The Dutton Palms Vineyard sits on the “Goldridge Loam” of Green Valley. Planted with the Wente Clone of Chardonnay, pockets of cool air coming off the Pacific settle in during the day, keeping temperatures cool and acids high. Composed of fine sandy loam, fluffy and with excellent drainage, there is a layer of silt as well as clay underneath that has some water retention to allow deeper-rooted vines access to water during the inevitable California drought.


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 fruit, selecting only the finest bunches, is sorted before being gently pressed into French oak barrels (a quarter of which is new) for fermentation using indigenous yeasts. With occasional batonnage, the wine rests in barrel after fermentation is complete for 14 months before blending and bottling.

Tasting Notes 

Bright and nervy but with ample weight, the Tenth Stop Chardonnay is a brilliant gold colour, with aromas of poached pear, ripe apple, dark honey and toast. On the palate, there is a luscious character to it, but the acids are still quite marked, making it come across as lighter and defter. This strikes a fine balance between cool climate and warm climate — quintessential Sonoma Coast Chardonnay — finishing with some of the telltale sea salinity the appellation is known for, in this case, like salted caramel.