In 2004, an unusually warm late winter, consistently mild
spring and summer weather, and several late-summer heat spells resulted
in one of the earliest Napa Valley harvests on record. Although fast
and furious, the early start to the season and lower-than-normal crop
loads produced grape clusters with small berries and ripe flavors, yielding
wines with impressive concentration, depth and structure.
Our Napa Valley Chardonnay represents a blend of grapes
from the cool Carneros region in southern Napa Valley and fruit from
vineyards in the town of Napa. Blending from the two regions enables
us to produce a Chardonnay with rich, ripe fruit flavors balanced by
crisp acidity. To maximize the quality of the fruit and avoid the daytime
heat that stresses vineyard workers, 76% was hand picked at night under
lights. The 2004 vintage was a markedly early harvest with consistent,
warm summer days, so it was advantageous to use the cool weather of
night to bring the grapes into the winery right on target. Harvested
at optimal maturity between August 22nd and September 18th, the grapes
arrived at the winery cool and in perfect condition, with their natural
acidity - essential to the wine's structure and freshness - perfectly
preserved. The cool temperature of the night harvested fruit also prevents
extraction from the skins that is not favorable.
Our Chardonnay fruit was 100% whole-cluster-pressed to
minimize astringency from the skins. Pressing the fruit cold assures
even lower extraction of astringent compounds, which also increases
the long term aging potential in white wines. Three quarters of the
juice was barrel fermented in 35% new French oak barrels at 50-55º
F, a slow, cool fermentation that fostered a perfect balance of ripe
fruit, yeast, natural acidity and toasty oak. The remaining portion
was fermented in stainless steel tanks, with those lots transferred
to barrel once fermentation completed. While barrel fermentation promotes
complexity and richness, tank fermentation maximizes fruit intensity.
Partial malolactic fermentation, primarily of the higher acid lots,
further enhanced the harmony of these elements. During nine months of
barrel aging, the wines were frequently hand stirred to promote the
integration of fruit, yeast, acid and oak, resulting in a beautifully
balanced Chardonnay of elegant richness.
Our 2004 Napa Valley Chardonnay offers fresh, lovely pear
and ripe Granny Smith apple aromas with supporting mineral, baked bread
and baking spice scents. Full and richly textured on the palate, the
citrusy crisp, spiced-apple and pear flavors are enriched by yeast and
toasty oak tones that extend into a very long, rich, minerally finish.
Youthfully compact, with superb structure and an ideal balance of fresh
fruit, acid and wood tones, this beautiful Napa Valley Chardonnay, one
of Cakebread's very best, should develop in the bottle for another 3
to 5 years.