The Story of Chardonnay
It’s the right time for the luxurious freshness of a golden glass of Chardonnay. The 2020 vintage of our Reserve Chardonnay is an evocative rendition of this beloved classic, offering snappy aromas and flavors of peaches and cream, honey and pastries, crisp apples, and more. Join us as we dive into this varietal’s illustrious story!
For the last decade, Chardonnay has been the leading varietal in the United States. This little golden grape has a long story. Though the geographical origins are disputed, it likely finds its roots in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France. Genetic studies have identified Chardonnay as a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. These “parents” are very different from each other, which offers what plant geneticists refer to as “hybrid vigor.” Essentially, Chardonnay is a resilient and adaptable varietal that lends itself well to further propagation. Today, Chardonnay is growing in at least 41 countries around the world in dramatically diverse climates and conditions.
As of 2022, there are nearly 90,000 acres of Chardonnay planted here in California, about a fifth of the total acreage of Chardonnay on earth. We have documentation of Chardonnay being cultivated in California all the way back to the 1800s, but it was not the wildly successful and popular varietal that it is now. During prohibition, many of the chardonnay vineyards in California were uprooted. The exception? Some plantings in the Santa Cruz mountains and some right here in the Livermore Valley! The very first successful commercial production of California Chardonnay was from plantings in the Livermore Valley. We are honored to continue the legacy of delicious Chardonnays that capture the essence of California Sunshine.
Oak is the most common companion for Chardonnay, offering rich notes of toast, vanilla, butter, and cream and the classic unctuous mouthfeel of an oaked Chardonnay. Some Chardonnays are produced without oak, using stainless steel barrels, to emphasize the fresh and aromatic features of a Chardonnay. Our Reserve Collection Chardonnay is made in a bold, flavorful style using a mix of French, American, and Hungarian oak. Our featured vintage, 2020, was aged for 17 months in a combination of 40% French, 34% Hungarian, and 26% American oak (40% new).
While many examples of Chardonnay can benefit from a few years of bottle aging, especially if they have high acidity, most Chardonnays are meant to be consumed in their youth, and enjoyed chilled. This vintage is very satisfying, offering a buttery-soft medium body and perfectly balanced acidity. We like to pair our Reserve Chardonnay with dishes like rich flaky fish, grilled veal chops with mushrooms, late summer vegetables and creamy mustard tarragon chicken.
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