2018 Chardonnay 'Chuy's Vineyard'
The growing season of 2018 was slightly cooler with more moisture than what we experienced in 2017, and this had an effect on the hillside vineyard where the Chuy’s Chardonnay grapes are grown. We picked the 3 ton crop on September 4, a full week later than the prior year, and the natural acid level was substantially higher and the pH was substantially lower than in the year before, as well. This gave us a crisper wine - a Chardonnay filled with a range of flavors that combine spiciness with exotic fruit and a delicious mineral component in the finish.
The land is rugged here on the western slope of Mt. Veeder, and Chuy’s Chardonnay vineyard sits on a 45 degree slope in the midst of the most rugged of it. The soil is largely basalt, or compacted volcanic ash, and loam is rare. There is little moisture in the ground, so the plants rely on what nature provides from periodic rainfall. The slope looks to the southwest, and on a clear day with the visibility approaching 50 miles, the skyline of San Francisco is frequently apparent in the distance. The nights are cold – even on the warmest days of summer – so the acidity in the grapes stays high, making for wines that are both expressive and balanced.
We ferment the Chuy’s Chardonnay exclusively in 60-gallon French oak barrels, and use only the wild, native yeast that is trapped on the skins of the grapes when they are harvested - all of which is done by hand. The yield in 2018 was barely one ton per acre, so the wine is concentrated, with a texture that seems almost thick. It reminds me of some of the Premier Cru bottlings of Meursault I’ve enjoyed in the cellars of Domaine Roulot. The real charm starts with the aftertaste though, and the low yields, along with the additional flavors characteristic of the small ‘Shot-Wente’ clusters, make for a memorable Chardonnay drinking experience.
We drove into Berkeley last week and stopped at Monterey Fish Market for some fresh swordfish. Barbara grilled the filets over mesquite hardwood, then served them with a mild tomatillo salsa to which she’d added a single Jalapeño – after removing the seeds. She added a touch of cilantro and some fresh lime juice to the salsa, and the 2018 Chuy’s Chardonnay was rich enough to work perfectly with the dish. It was a fascinating wine and food marriage. - Bruce Neyers
Origin - Sonoma Valley
Vineyard - Chuy’s Vineyard
Barrel program - 40% New French Oak, 60% Used French Oak
Composition - 100% Chardonnay