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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Freestone Vineyards Fogdog Chardonnay

United States (California)


I was perversely attracted  to the label, living in a port city that’s been chilled and fog-stricken through much of June. (Has anyone seen summer?) In the mist of it all, we acquired a puppy. The bottle begged to be opened. And on one of the few days to see the sun we popped the cork on the Fogdog.

Freestone Vineyards Fogdog Chardonnay 2007

For those who like their chardonnay with a serving of buttered oak, this one’s for you. California all the way, from the moment the aromas of the brassy yellow liquid hit the nose to the full-in-the-mouth experience. There is no surprise that before bottling it spent 15 months in French oak (60% new, 40% two and three year old). So it’s a matter of what side you stand on the great oak divide. If you are among the ‘yeas’ then there is much to recommend this rich and robust, near chewy wine. There’s a lovely lemon citrus in tandem with the vanilla. Doesn’t truly need food, but lobster does nicely.  $$

Freestone Vineyards is the creation of Joe Phelps and his son Bill. The pair are synonymous with Napa where, since its founding in 1972, Joseph Phelps Vineyards has been a leading producer in the Bordeaux style. By the late 1990s they were searching Sonoma, with the intention of planting Burgundy varietals, pinot noir and chardonnay. In west Sonoma, just six miles from the coast, near the village of Freestone, they found what they were looking for. They planted 40 hectares of the two grapes, made a commitment to biodynamics, and by 2005 their first vintage was in wine stores.

When discussion turns to the character of Freestone wines, the owners point to the special characteristics of their three vineyard sites. Elevation ranges from 60 to 150 metres above sea level. The soil drains very well, forcing the roots deep, and as the vines mature an increasing percentage of the vineyards are able to be dry farmed. The influence of the ocean is central to the success of the vines. Nights and mornings tend to be cool, with fog giving way to lengthy afternoons of full sun — the makings of a long, slow-ripening, superb growing season.

The grape harvest is taken to Freestone’s new three-storey, gravity-advantaged winery, where head winemaker Theresa Heredia is in charge. She produces chardonnay under three labels, each with its own distinct profile, all aged in oak. Fogdog (meaning ‘a bright or clear spot in breaking fog’) is the lowest priced of the three. Hopefully a few more dollars will dim the oak influence a little and let the brilliance of the fruit shine through even more.

Doggie agrees.


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