The grapes for our 2003 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay came exclusively from the cool Carneros district: 71% from the renowned Hudson Vineyard and 29% from our own Foster Road Vineyard. The four superb, small-berried clones of Chardonnay utilized in these vineyards are ideal for cool-climate regions and were selected expressly for planting in Carneros. Their fruit yields juice with perfect balance and intense, concentrated varietal flavors.
The 2003 growing season began unpredictably with unusual heat spells in March followed by cold, rainy weather in April, which set back vine growth and reduced yields on early ripening varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Summer weather, however, was ideal, with cool mornings, mild afternoons and a few well-timed heat spikes in September that accelerated ripening. These conditions enabled our grapes, harvested between September 15th and October 5th, to develop intense varietal flavors while retaining excellent levels of acidity.
The grapes were night-harvested and whole-cluster pressed to yield fresh, pure juice. After cold-settling in tank for 36 hours, the preponderance of the must (unfermented grape juice) was inoculated with several cultured yeast strains that accentuate the fruitiness and enhance the texture of Chardonnay. The balance was fermented with native yeast strains, which foster greater wine complexity and impart a pleasing mineral tone. All the juice fermented in French oak barrels, with roughly 20% undergoing a secondary, malolactic fermentation to enhance mouth-feel and develop a slight butteriness. Aging on the primary yeast lees for 14 months in barrel, with periodic stirring, added a silky texture and subtle yeasty richness to the wine's intense varietal fruit flavors. After racking off the lees, the wine was bottled in December, 2004.
Our 2003 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay opens with aromas of sweet butter and oak spice, followed by waves of fresh, spiced-apple, pear and melon fruit scents. On the palate, the wine reveals a rich, mouth-filling texture with ripe, fleshy, apple-y flavors balanced by bright acidity and a refreshing minerality, with savory oak and subtle yeast tones enhancing the long, rich finish. Youthful and concentrated, with wonderful balance and depth of fruit, this superlative Napa Valley Chardonnay will continue to develop in the bottle for another 5-8 years.