Aubert’s New Releases

USA, California, Napa Valley and Sonoma County

Aubert’s New Releases

One of a handful of the USA’s greatest Chardonnay producers and right up there with the top Chardonnay estates in the world, Aubert knocks it out of the park again with their latest line-up of 2020 and 2021 releases.

The Citrus Circus

Mark Aubert cut his teeth in the 1990s at some of Napa Valley’s finest wineries, following in the footsteps of giants such as Helen Turley at both Peter Michael winery and Colgin. Having made his name as one of the valley’s top Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers, Mark took a surprise turn in 2000 when he launched his own label, focusing exclusively on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

“I’m a Napa Valley boy—my family moved here in 1969,” Mark said. “But I’ve always wanted to make the cult Chardonnays and Pinots of Sonoma.” 

Aubert’s winery is in Calistoga, but only one of the vineyards he works with is in Napa. Sugar Shack in Rutherford is Aubert’s “home” vineyard, planted to the Montrachet Clone—what Mark calls “the citrus circus” clone. Including Sugar Shack, Aubert owns five of the vineyards he works with, the other four located in cooler climate Sonoma Coast: Lauren, CIX, Park Avenue, and Powder House. Fruit is also purchased from Larry Hyde & Sons Estate (Carneros), Hudson (Carneros), UV-SL Vineyard (Sonoma Coast), and Eastside (Russian River Valley), equating to nine different Chardonnay labels, currently. He also makes three single vineyard Pinot Noirs, one from CIX Estate and two from Ulises Valdez vineyards: UV and UV-SL.

Most of the production at Aubert is the Chardonnays, a unique pursuit for a California winery, let alone Cabernet-synonymous Napa. Since the beginning, Aubert has been upfront and unwavering about his expression of Sonoma and Napa, delivering full-bodied, concentrated, textural wines that tip the 15% alcohol scale. Yet, the balance and freshness of these wines are such that many would guess the alcohol to be a degree or lower. 

"I’m a Napa Valley boy."

“The Aubert style has not changed since 2000,” commented Aubert. “The Chardonnay grapes are picked at midnight—the coolest time. Then, it’s a race against the clock. We want the juice in the barrel within four to five hours.” Protective handling is the name of the game at Aubert. “If you’re not careful with the preparation, you lose the fruit.” The juice is never allowed to settle, and lees stirring is avoided. “We tend to have very slow, drawn-out fermentations. The wines can take six months to ferment.” Full malolactic is practiced. The Chardonnays are only in barrels for about ten months, and then they are racked to tank and spend the rest of their aging in stainless steel, bottled unfiltered in December each year, after around 15 months total in barrel and tank. “I treat everything the same to bring out the continuity across the vineyards.”

The 2020 Chardonnays I tasted in August this year were bottled in December 2021, and the 2021s I tasted from tank will be bottled this December.

2020 was a challenging vintage in Napa and Sonoma. Apart from lockdown conditions, it was a relatively hot vintage with a brutal heatwave that hit northern California over Labor Day weekend that year. Then there was the risk of smoke taint from LNU Lightning Complex and Glass fires. Thus far, I haven’t found any 2020 smoke-tainted white wines. This is likely because the white grapes were harvested earlier than the reds and the skin contact during winemaking is minimal. “Our harvest was very early in 2020,” said Aubert. “Sugar Shack came in on August 17th. I was resistant to adjusting my winemaking in any way. We just kept doing what we do. I’m thrilled with the results. The 2020 Chardonnays all have that healthy yellow-green tint that I love.”

Mark Aubert’s 2020 Chardonnays do not miss a beat and are right up there with some of the finest he has ever produced. But the Pinot Noirs were not so fortunate.

"I treat everything the same to bring out the continuity across the vineyards."

“No single vineyard Pinot Noir was made in 2020,” said Aubert. “Our customers know we would never bottle anything with smoke taint.”


There were two Chardonnay labels that Aubert could not produce in 2020, but not because of smoke taint. “There’s no Eastside or Hudson vineyards in 2020,” commented Aubert. “There was a freak frost event that happened in April 2020. So, we declassified what little fruit we had.”

The 2021 Chardonnays I tasted were tank samples racked out of barrel about 20-30 days before my visit. “I was recently studying the soil moistures for 2020 and 2021, and they were almost the same,” said Aubert. “We had more moderate heat in 2021. There were a few warm days, but not many. And crop sizes were a little larger in 2021. But otherwise, the vintage was very similar to 2020. It’s true; there was very little rain in 2021. There’s a tension and typicity to 2021 that I love and a sweet tone. We’re really excited about this vintage. The wines are clearly tied to their sites. The 2021s had lower pHs than the 2020s and should age incredibly for 20 or more years, especially in magnum. But we do only about 1% of production in magnum and we do a few three liters for charities.”

The 2021 Pinots were bottled in June 2022. “2021 for the Pinots was easy; everything fell into place. There were drought conditions, so the bunches were small, and the wines have more concentration.”

I found the newly bottled 2021 Pinot Noirs to be the finest Aubert has produced.

Production at Aubert remains relatively small, but there’s hope for more wine for Sugar Shack lovers. “We recently bought another three acres next to Sugar Shack, so production of that will increase. It was only around 500 cases before.” So, fans can expect more of The Citrus Circus to go around in the future.

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photographs by Johan Berglund



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