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.
What a growing season—torrential rains and flooding in the winter gave way to periodic blasts of heat. Labor Day weekend was the most extreme, with temperature in San Francisco 105+ -- unheard of! The winter rains definitely helped all the varieties at Stewart as they began the growing season much less stressed than the last couple of vintages. Our Chardonnay ripens very slowly with a great deal of hang time, and in 2017 despite the heat blasts did not come off the vine until the end of September.
Pleased with the results over the years, production procedures remained the same. Grapes were whole-clustered pressed, settled overnight and the juice 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 tantalizing hint of gold announces this is Chardonnay. Consistent with its predecessors, our 2017 offers intriguing and complex aromas of caramelized apple, vanilla, hazelnut, and orange blossom. The background of toasty sweet oak lifts the nose offering additional structure to the wine. Appropriate acidity awakens the palate and keeps the wine refreshing. The hallmark of excellent wine? It keeps drawing you back for more.
Single vineyard? Small production? Sense of terroir? Here you go.