UV-El Diablo Vineyard Chardonnay 2021

Producer: Senses Wines
Region: Sonoma County
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Country: USA
Wine Type: White
Variety: Chardonnay
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Alcohol: 14.5%
Residual Sugar: 0 g/L
Soil: Gravelly and Sandy Loam with Tight Clay Subsoil
Awards: 95-Lisa Perrotti-Brown
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.


The Russian River Valley AVA, which lies in the geographical heart of Sonoma, is home to over 15000 vineyard acres and 70 wineries. Fifteen miles long, it winds its way through Mendocino County AVA, Alexander Valley AVA and Healdsburg, before heading out to the Pacific. Warmer than Sonoma Coast AVA, but cooler than areas further inland such as the Alexander Valley AVA, the area’s dense morning and evening fog banks have become synonymous with the region, helping cool the grapes from the warm days. It is this diurnal change that allows for the production of world-class cooler-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as fantastic warmer-climate Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are varied soils within this appellation, but most share large amounts of gravel and some measure of clay.


El Diablo sits on a ridge above Eastside Road in Russian River Valley. It is planted solely to Chardonnay (mainly the Wente clone). The soil is gravelly loam sitting on clay, which is helpful considering the lack of rainfall that has plagued California winemakers the past decade. Great pains are made to ensure all vineyard practices are sustainable.


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.


The 2021 vintage showcased the advantages of growing grapes on the coast in a drought year. Where some parts of the state were abnormally warm, the coast remained moderate and stable without severe heat days, allowing for winemaking-through-farming. Tonnage was carefully managed and the fruit was left to hang, developing full phenolic ripeness while still preserving the acidic quality that is so characteristic of the coast. Hand-harvested fruit is brought to the winery in the cool of evening. It is pressed into a selection of French oak barrels (30% new) for a cold soak followed by spontaneous fermentation and 14 months of aging with regular lees stirring.

Tasting Notes 

“The 2021 Senses El Diablo Vineyard Chardonnay slowly unfurls to deliver powerful notes of peach cobbler, preserved mandarin peel, and lime cordial, giving way to underlying suggestions of honeycomb, praline, and sea spray. The medium to full-bodied palate has a decadent oiliness to the texture, juxtaposed by a lively backbone and layers of bright stone fruit and citrus flavors, finishing on a lingering ginger ale note.” – Lisa Perrotti-Brown