Stewart Vineyard in Carneros is the source of some of my finest grapes. The consistent quality that emerges each year is stunning. The Merlot, Albariño, and Sauvignon Blanc are topnotch. All the variables that influence grape quality—clone, soil, temperature, cultural practices, have combined to make it a unique and special property. When I was offered the first tiny crop of Chardonnay in 2009, I had no idea of the style of wine that would emerge, but given my experience with Stewart, I was optimistic. I was not let down!
I often pose the question—if it’s a special birthday or occasion and you have to grab a certain wine, what would it be? It would probably surprise many of you that my choice would most often be white Burgundy. Perhaps I am drawn to the elusiveness of great Chardonnay. When it realizes its potential, it offers unique flavors and aromas found in no other wine.
We were rewarded with another outstanding vintage in 2016. Sunshine and a warm dry spring led to mild and ideal growing conditions throughout the summer. Because of late winter rains, the vines began their growing season a little happier and less stressed than in 2015. With no weather extremes to interfere, grapes ripened slowly and evenly, resulting in beautiful concentration of flavor and aromas.
Grapes were whole-clustered pressed, settled overnight and then racked to barrel. Each barrel was inoculated with a yeast strain chosen for its ability to ferment slowly and not generate much heat, critical in barrel fermentation. The goal was to preserve aromatics and add complexity. The wine was aged sur-lie for 10 months.
A precise and inviting tinge of gold announces this is Chardonnay. Our 2016 offers intriguing and complex aromas of baked apple, hint of butterscotch, toasty oak, vanilla, hazelnut, and cardamom. The wine invites you to explore! Flavors suggest tart apple and lemon zest supported by a vibrant mouth with wonderful complexity. The angular structure keeps all the components in check but a powerful finish surprises with a touch of creaminess. The wine continues to fascinate and captivate me.
In a world of look-alike Chardonnays, here is one that will definitely elicit a second look!