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Fruit, oak in balance in chardonnay

Dan Cederquist, the Matchbook winemaker crafted an ideal wine for a summer barbecue.
Dan Cederquist, the Matchbook winemaker crafted an ideal wine for a summer barbecue.

Dan Cederquist wanted to find balance.

The Matchbook winemaker had the desired vineyard conditions in the sunny and warm Dunnigan Hills of California to make the chardonnay he desired. But he had to make a decision on which direction to take when it came to winemaking. 

As spring segues into summer, Cederquist crafted an ideal wine for a summer barbecue. Sit on the porch and take in the lively fruit notes that are comfortable companions to the sunshine. There’s just enough oak to add some spice and depth to a wine that will compliment grilled fish, shrimp and salads. 

Winemaker spotlight 

Fruit was important for Cederquist. 

He quickly rattled off all the fruit flavors he finds pleasing in chardonnay. Yet, with 20 percent new oak, Matchbook offered a hint of oak.     

“It’s a nice in-between,” Cederquist said. “I like the spicy notes new oak can impart. But I love the melon, apple and pineapple characteristics of chardonnay. We don’t need too much oak. I like the fruit components. They are important. I want a vibrant, fresh, lively feel.”

Matchbook has loads of fruit up front and finishes with an oak spice and creme brûlée creaminess. It’s a challenge to get the mix right for Cederquist, just as it’s a daily task during the growing season to manage the vineyard.  

Harvest takes place two to three weeks earlier than cooler climate areas such as the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley or Santa Barbara.

An abundance of sunshine makes canopy management vital.  

A developed canopy is cut only on one side, which shields the fruit from the oppressive sun.

“It’s warmer, and there is more sun,” Cederquist said about the Matchbook vineyards in the Dunnigan Hills. “I was familiar with cooler climate chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. But the fruit just does so well here. We get high pH and low acid, which results in rich chardonnay, and we’ve embraced that.”

What to buy

Matchbook, Old Head Chardonnay 2012 ($14.99) – Vanilla, Jona Gold apples and creme brûlée flavors flourish at a great price. The nose of pears and caramel yield to a fruit-forward chardonnay.  

Wine 101

A continuation of the Matchbook theme is a reserve chardonnay. The 2012 Arsonist will be an expression of the top 5 percent of all chardonnay in the Matchbook cellar. Expect a rich, creamy, buttery chardonnay that represents the best of the best at Matchbook. 

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for Shaw Media. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. He can be reached at

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