To preserve vibrant fruit character and acidity, we hand harvested the Chardonnay at night and immediately pressed the whole clusters. We barrel fermented all of the juice in French oak for layers of complexity and then allowed 75 percent of the wine to complete malolactic fermentation to round the acidity. Stirring of the yeast during barrel aging (sur lie) enhanced the mouthfeel and integrated flavors.
We sourced this Chardonnay from our oldest, highest-quality vineyards, with half of the grapes coming from our estate vineyards planted in 1971, 1972 and 1973. An additional 20 percent came from an outstanding 1985 planting, which Richard Boer grafted using budwood taken from vines planted in 1946 on the estate. These Macwood heritage selections yield tiny berries that contribute intensity and structure to the wine. The oldest Chardonnay vines in this blend were planted in 1919. The age of our vines gives our Chardonnay wines their intense flavors, quality, aging potential and typicité. “By typicité, I mean wines that speak of the varietal character and the place that’s Chalone,” explains Robert. “It’s in their mouthfeel, texture, brightness and minerality.” A warm, dry spring and nearly ideal summer temperatures followed a very low-rainfall winter in 2013. While we worried about water, these factors resulted in balanced vines, excellent fruit set and small, concentrated grapes. “We had perfect weather during the very condensed harvest,” says Robert. “I spent nights up at our mountain-top winery so I could begin crushing again at sunrise. All the varieties ripened at once! However, those brilliantly clear, cool nights—paired with optimum daytime temperatures—fostered beautifully balanced wines.”