The editors at Wine Enthusiast Magazine are catching on to how wonderful Livermore Valley Chardonnay can be when carefully farmed and crafted. As editor Jim Gordon writes in the June issue, our 2014 Founder’s Chardonnay is “a complete and delicious one, because all the separate, dramatic components balance each other nicely. Butter and vanilla oozes from the aroma, ripe apple and delicious pear pour from the flavors, and vibrant acidity balances the almost unctuous texture.”
Chalky rock-strewn soil, dappled sunlight on warm, autumn days, and the gradual adaptation of the vines over the past centuries – all of these contribute to the unique flavors of our Del Arroyo Vineyard Chardonnay. A terroir like no other in California, here the fruit can develop rich flavors and retain the acidity required for perfect balance.
With each passing harvest, our winemaking techniques evolve as our understanding of the vineyard improves. For our first several vintages we started fermentation in stainless steel, and transferred the wine to barrel only towards the end. Then, with successive vintages, we gradually increased the fraction of barrel fermentation until, for the 2015 harvest, the wine was fermented entirely in the barrel. We have found that the Burgundian method of complete barrel fermentation is the best for showcasing our vineyard’s terroir.
We also are gradually changing the barrels we use in our Chardonnay program. Gone are the richly textured barrels coopered in Napa, replaced by tighter grained and less toasted barrels, many coopered for us in France. Also, we have increased the proportion of once used barrels. This is allowing us to lengthen the time the wine can mature in barrel without overwhelming the delicacy of the fruit.
Finally, we continue to study the frequency we stir the lees, and how long the wine is allowed to rest, sur lie, until bottling. Herein is the art of crafting wine, an art that requires patience, careful monitoring, and passion.
With only a half a dozen cases left, the 91 points recently awarded to our 2014 Chardonnay won’t help us sell any more of it. But what it does tell us is that the outside world is beginning to recognize the potential of Livermore Valley Chardonnay. And that is reward enough.