We recently tasted through all of our Chardonnay lots from 2007. Following is a very brief summary of our 2007 Chardonnay program and some of the highlights of the tasting.
We started the vintage with about 9 separate lots of Chard, but these have been blended down to 6 distinct lots. Reasons for keeping lots separate include separation of vineyard blocks, clones, fermentation techniques, and winemaker's tastes. We have 4 different clones of Chardonnay planted in 3 different blocks on the vineyard. This gives us a great variety of flavors, aromas and textures with the wines. To further complicate my own matters, I like to utilize different yeast strains and malolactic regimes for different lots, usually based on how they taste and our historical understanding of what we can expect from the grapes in each block.
Our Clones 76 & 96 display rich fruit aromatics and flavors of pear, melon and fig. These wines are nicely balanced and maintain a good level of acidity. They do well with moderate levels of new oak and respond nicely to a moderate level of malolactic fermentation. Moderate for me is in a range of 20-30%. We do have an exceptional section of 8 rows of Clone 96 that display such great fruit complexity that the wine is able to gracefully shoulder a higher percentage of new oak and malolactic. This lot is typically considered for our Corley Reserve program each year.
Our Clone 95 is generally a little more citrus oriented, although does display subtle characteristics of richer fruits such as ripe macintosh apples and figs as well. This wine naturally tends towards a slightly crisper, brighter style of Chardonnay which works exceptionally well in our blends.
Our Heirloom Clone is really a very special experience. The aromas and texture of the wine are amazing. This year, I separated this lot into three sublots - Wild Yeast, Inoculated Yeast, and Malolactic Fermentation. The Wild Yeast lot really has some dazzling aromas and flavors of melon and tangerine. The Inoculated Yeast lot is a little less aromatic but has a bright beam of fruit and balanced acidity that shines on right through the long finish. The MLF lot adds an extra layer of rich texture and hints of pie crust and butterscotch in the background.
These Chardonnays celebrate one of the most enjoyable aspects of winemaking - diversity. And its so satisfying to find all of that diversity right here in one place.
My brothers - Kevin and Stephen - and I just wrapped a two-day team tasting of every lot that we produced in 2007. Across the board, these wines are tasting great! In addition to being a lot of fun, these team tastings are beneficial for all three of us, as we all gain valuable insight for each of our tasks at the winery.
While I personally typically set aside an hour each day for tasting, we try to taste together as a group every two weeks so we can have a discussion about the wines and gain each other's insights. And our tastings are not just limited to our own wines. We include production tastings, vertical tastings of past vintages and sometimes comparative tastings of peer wineries in Napa and other regions of the world.
As the winemaker, it's important for me to taste through our wines frequently in order to ensure their quality throughout the entire winemaking process, and admittedly it is one of my favorite aspects of my job. For Kevin, as the winegrower, it is valuable for him to taste through the wines to determine what viticultural practices are lending themselves to the highest quality winegrape we can grow. For Stephen, who directs our sales and marketing efforts, it's very beneficial for him to taste through the production lots so he's clear on what's going on behind the cellar door and is able to convey that mesage effectively.
Most importantly, though, our tastings give the three of us a chance to get together in the wine library tasting room, tune out the buzz and tune into the wines. And when you get down to it, that's really what it's all about ...