We didn’t plan this, honest.
I know some of you are saying, “Freemark again?”, seeing as we just featured the Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015 a little over a month ago. But hey, when the rep recently brought in the Freemark Abbey Chardonnay Napa Valley 2017 we knew we’d be going back to the well immediately after tasting it.
I mean, honestly, what do you follow up with after the Freemark Abbey Cab was the Wine Advocate’s highest-scoring Cabernet under $50?
You give folks the Wine Advocate’s highest-scoring Chardonnay under $30!
Yup, not kidding. And it just so happens to be Freemark Abbey...again!
Unbelievable, but true. Though granted, Freemark just beat out the amazing El Enemigo Chardonnay from Argentina and Ojai’s Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay (both Winex ‘alum’) by a ‘+’. But hey, they’ll take it!
For those of you who didn’t check out our story from last month…
Freemark Abbey? Yeah, everything old isn’t necessarily new again. But some things are. Back when we started in the business in the late 70s, Freemark Abbey was a big deal. The expansion of the industry and proliferation of producers kind of diluted each winery’s individual luster to some extent. The press has long been keen on focusing on the ‘hot new label’ which pushed some of the tried and true labels to the sideline as well. But Freemark Abbey chugged along making very good Chardonnays and, in particular, Cabernets for a long time.
Freemark is one of the vanguard Napa wineries. You’ve got the history. The winery was founded by Josephine Marlin Tychson
way back in 1886, one of the first women to operate a winery in California. She sold it to her foreman in 1894 and over the next several decades (excluding Prohibition, of course) the winery went through several hands until 1966 when it was purchased by a group of partners who subsequently developed Freemark as a serious Napa player and later spun off ‘sister’ brand, Rutherford Hill. These folks stayed at the helm until 2001 when the first ‘acquisition phase’ hit Napa.
The winery was purchased by someone called the Legacy Estates Group. Legacy also tried to consolidate Arrowood and Byron wineries under one banner in that period of ‘leveraged buyouts’ and it all eventually fell apart. It was during that period in the early 2000s that the wine quality and the reputation of the winery kind of became forgettable, and Freemark kind of fell off most serious buyers’ radar.
In 2005 it was acquired by Jackson Family Vineyards, and the Jacksons have been working hard at restoring Freemark to its former splendor ever since.
Winemaker Ted Edwards has been manning the helm at Freemark Abbey since 1985 and his philosophy towards Chardonnay hasn’t changed…and we love it.
Granted, I think the Jacksons probably give him a wider range of fruit to work with and some fine tech behind it, but its still Ted’s vision and his winemaking team that ‘deliver the goods’.
The vison remains unchanged, Ted uses no malo-lactic fermentation in his Chardonnay, preferring to let the wine’s natural acidity from its cooler southern Napa vineyards to shine. The wine is partially barrel-fermented then aged in predominately older French barrels to keep the oak influence to a minimum.