Award-winning wine writer and editor Linda Murphy and winemakers discuss techniques used to coax the character out of California Chardonnays.Award-winning wine writer and editor Linda Murphy and winemakers discuss techniques used to coax the character out of California Chardonnays.
People say Chardonnay is a blank canvas. Well, it's not. It's not a blank canvas but there are things that wine makers can do To enhance texture, to enhance flavor, to accentuate acidity, that sort of thing. So, first up is Jean with the Hanzell 2004 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay. Great winemaking began at Hanzell Vineyards with the use of small French Oak barrels, and really studying what goes on with the great chemistry. And Bob [UNKNOWN] created the Hanzell White, which is slow, meticulous observance Of the fruit growing and how the vines grow, knowing that, if you wanna improve quality of Chardonnay, where do you start? Vineyards. It's not about the technique, necessarily, that we use, although we only do partial malolactic. And only about 30% barrel fermented. The rest is stainless steel and then all the wine is barrel aged in small [UNKNOWN] barrels for about 12 months. Our real goal is keep the characteristics of our 27 acres. We have all joined [UNKNOWN] to work with this piece of land over decades. We just released the 2004 last September. The hallmark of [UNKNOWN] is ageability. Our Chardonnay's can last up to 20 to 25 years, in cellaring. And they become better and better. They are usually pretty tightly wound when they are released. And they continue to develop beautifully for about five to eight years, and then they age really well. [BLANK_AUDIO] Next up is the Robert Young Vineyard 1997 chardonnay from Chateau St. Jean. Robert Young Vineyards, it's up in the Alexander Valley. It's a beautiful piece of property. It's about a 500 acre ranch. About 300 acres of vineyard itself, and about 130 of that is planted to chardonnay. St. Jean is the benefactor of purchasing most all the chardonnay. The advantage for us there is that we a vineyard designate bottling that you're tasting today, but we also make a Sonoma county Chardonnay. So we're able to select from the different blocks that Robert Young has out there and do a blending. So we are blending different locations of this vineyard to come up with our final bottling. And their balanced because their Sonoma California Chardonnay which just makes that all the better. We do make this wine in a non-malolactic style. We're in a warmer climate actually, in Alexander Valley, so we do have some softer acidities. And we find that when we put the lots through malolactic, it can tend to get a little bit too soft for the structure of wine that I want to make. '97, of course, was a vintage of amazing quantity and quality. We were all amazed by that at the time because that doesn't usually go hand in hand. But it wasn't a vintage that I'd love to reproduce because it was so great. And I think it's fun to see how this Chardonnay has aged. What impresses me the most is that it has the original characters of the Robert Young Vineyard which to me are about Meyer, lemon, and pear. But the structure and the balance that I always get out of this vineyard is even there in the 1997. Even though the wine is 10 years old. And then you skip over to the 2004, which is just a young pup by comparison. I mean, it really is a young wine. And it's very fresh fruit characteristics when you put them side by side. The 2004 to me shows the early Robert Young characteristics of honeysuckle. And again, that pear characteristic comes out that's so typical of the Alexander Valley. This is a barrel fermented wine, about 50% new oak, and we use a variety of coopers. It's sort of like a spice rack to finish out the wine. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]