Our main Chardonnay is influenced by my time at UC Davis, and in Napa and Burgundy and it combines Californian and Burgundian techniques. It is more fruit-forward, focusing more on the varietal characteristics of Chardonnay than the Reserve. We incorporate some French techniques – barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation and barrel-aging – to add complexity to the wine.
We begin harvest with the Chardonnay, usually in the first week of September. The newly pressed Chardonnay juice resembles unfined, unfiltered fruit juice. The clearer the juice, the fruitier the fermentation will be, so we clarify the juice by settling it overnight at 50°F, allowing the heavy grape solids to settle to the bottom of the tank. The next morning, we pump the clear juice off the sediment and then inoculate it with yeast. We use three different strains of yeast, each providing a unique flavor profile and richness to the wine.
To showcase the varietal characteristics of the Chardonnay grape, 50% of the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks at 56°F. The resulting wine is usually fruit-forward with bright, crisp aromas of pears and citrus. Then for added complexity and depth, we ferment the other 50% of the juice in French oak barrels producing a roasted nuts aroma and greater depth on the palate.
After alcoholic fermentation, 40% of the main Chardonnay undergoes malolactic fermentation, converting the wine’s natural malic acid to the softer lactic acid, adding a buttery character to the aroma and a rich, creamy texture on the palate.
We age the main Chardonnay for six months in French (88%) and American (12%) oak barrels in our wine caves about 20% of which are new barrels. All of the lots of wine are kept separate until we do blending trials in April and May. We then bottle in July, just before the next harvest when the wine has almost a year of age. We hold our main Chardonnay for an additional 14 months before we release it in September, so the flavors can begin to marry and the wine can start to develop bottle bouquet.
I describe the main Chardonnay as being bright and crisp with aromas of grapefruit, pear and vanilla. On the palate, it is fresh and lively with a slight creaminess and a long, lingering finish. As our Chardonnay ages, the wine softens, becoming even fuller on the palate. The Reserve Chardonnay, on the other hand, has more mineral, flinty and creamy characteristics. I love to cook and believe it is important to make wines that pair well with food. We’re pleased that both the Reserve and main Chardonnays do just that.