Courtney Benham Chardonnay Napa Reserve 2014

Some winemakers must think “Ach, good enough” when they finish their work. That’s fair enough, because making wine is a business, so that if the input costs and quality are x, there’s not much of a multiple of x one can reasonably expect in the glass.

There are exceptions, naturally, and this might be one. Immediately notable is the powerful nose, and by powerful I mean complete rather than a punch in the nose. I smelled oak, vanilla and a wonderfully deep fruit suit of clothing that was well-made and fit well.

We don’t talk much about how wines are layered from the inside out, just like a person. An impressive first impression travels a long way with people; wine is the same. On the nose alone the vocabulary of whomever made this win impressed me. Although there’s clear oak aging here, it’s the fascinating fruit (tropical and pears, with some mild honey-like notes) that takes one’s attention.

On the palate, delicious honeyed, creamy fruit, like a very ripe fruit compote with the mildest squeeze of lemon. This is a large mouthful, but not in the least overpowering, with the oak and acids balanced to the end.