The Difference Between a Landmark Chardonnay and Most of the Others
Wine is first and foremost a beverage; it must, therefore, taste good. Our goal is a wine that combines balance and finesse with rich flavor.
Each Vintage we produce one type of wine: Sonoma County Chardonnay. Other wineries attempt to make several different varietals and appellations, often from grapes grown a great distance from their facilities. Our chardonnay is local: Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Mountain and Carneros Appellations -- locations within an hour's drive of our Kenwood winery.
Gentle Fruit Handling and Natural Yeasts
In the early morning all grapes are hand picked into half-ton bins and brought to the press cool and mostly intact; stems and berries are attached, not like the usual "Cuisinart" de- stemmed and ground-to-pulp technologies typical of other wineries.
Each press lot (8-15 tons, approximately 500-1,000 cases of wine) is then given a long and gentle pressing to extract the sweet flavored juice, without the harsh phenolic compounds from the skins and seeds.
After cold settling, the juice is put into French oak barrels (25% of which are new) where it is left to be transformed into wine by the indigenous yeasts, present on the skins of the grapes. This a practice as old as wine itself, and will result in superior wine. Yet most other wineries believe introducing a select monoculture of factory-manufactured yeast (freeze dried for convenience). Herein lies perhaps the single most significant difference between our chardonnay and others.
The role of yeasts that is, a succession of different species through the course of our barrel fermentation, leads to a wider array of secondary compounds. These, like the many layers in a painting, combine to give our Chardonnay greater depth and complexity.
All of our wine undergoes a secondary fermentation. This bacterial malolactic fermentation is important for two reasons. First, it adds a host of new flavor and aroma compounds to our Chardonnay. Equally important for our wine's quality, it permits us to create a wine which is microbiologically stable, so only a coarse filtration may be necessary before bottling. It is a widely agreed axiom in winemaking that filtration strips out flavor and aroma components and that unfiltered or minimally filtered wines possess more flavor and character.
Each step in our winemaking program is a conscious effort to produce the richest and most satisfying bottle of Chardonnay possible.