2017 Chardonnay '304'
"A few years ago Tadeo Borchardt accompanied me on one of my regular trips to France, and we arranged a visit in Chablis with my favorite winemaker there, Roland Lavantureux. The tasting was a career turner for both of us, as we moved through wine after wine, each bursting with bright flavors, crisp acidity, and an aftertaste of refreshing minerality. Later that day, we made our plan to produce a bottling of Chardonnay with no oak contact. First we needed a source for the grapes. Paul Larson’s family has been growing grapes in the Carneros District of Sonoma County for over a century, and Paul has a parcel that is thought to be the southern-most Chardonnay vineyard in Sonoma County. That proximity to the Bay makes it one of the coldest grape-growing spots in northern California. Moreover, many of the vines are in the bed of what used to be a large creek, so the soil is rocky, with a deep gravel deposit. Those two factors – cold climate and rocky soil – make the vineyard particularly attractive for a Chablis-style Chardonnay, as the combination of high natural acidity with strong minerality are two elements we look for in classic Chablis. We were delighted that the weather at Larson's vineyard was so chilly that these were the last grapes we harvested." - Bruce Neyers
For this style of un-oaked Chardonnay, we whole-cluster press the fruit and then ferment the juice, relying only on the yeast naturally trapped on the skin of the grapes. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks, with about 15% in concrete tanks. This adds another dimension to this wine. The wine seems more enriched because of the evaporation that occurs through the concrete. The large steel tank is made with what the industry refers to as Grade ‘304’ Stainless, a reference to the high percentage of Nickel and Chromium used in its production. After the fermentation starts, we circulate the new wine over the top of the tank in order to extend the contact with the yeast lees. It does not undergo malolactic fermentation; therefore you do not find a "buttery" flavor. After two months or so of slowly fermenting, the wine is dry. We chill the wine in the tank and watch for clarity and stability before filtering and bottling.
Our Chardonnay ‘304’ is fresh, crisp, and delicately layered with flavors. The gravelly soil adds the expected mineral component and the cold climate of the vineyard keeps the fruit acid high. It’s a wine that is easy to drink, loaded with character, and enormously satisfying.