When Jim asked Anne to make a Chardonnay, she was reticent. Anne prefers traditional old-world white Burgundy and is not enamored with the riper approach to the California style of Chardonnay. In order to find the right vineyard site, Anne went to Al Steele of Dutton Ranch, the famous Russian River Valley grower in Sonoma County, known for exceptional Chardonnays. She asked him for the coldest block in his coldest vineyard. Anne loves the restraint, balance, and complexity, which the climate of this site naturally produces.
Red Mare's Chardonnay has been vineyard-designated from day one. It comes from Dutton's Mills Station Vineyard, where the soil is a thick deposit of the coveted Goldridge series, known for producing deliciously complex Chardonnay. It is the combination of the "Old Block" planted to an unknown clone in the '70s along with a touch of the modern - Dijon Clone 76. This results in the beautiful juxtaposition of the bright, fruit-forward characters of the Dijon clone, and the textured, mineral characteristics of the Old Block.
We make our Chardonnay with great care - sorting and then pressing only whole clusters, which does sacrifice yield, but protects the natural acidity and prevents over-extraction. The juice goes directly to the barrel after a short cold settling. It ferments in 100% Burgundian oak barrels, with about 15% new. Malolactic is a rather philosophical question at Red Mare Wines. We allow this Chardonnay to go naturally through malolactic, but rarely all the way. Most years, the wine stops somewhere around 30 - 60%. Interestingly, the place it naturally rests is usually where we prefer it organoleptically.
The long, cool 2018 season has given us a complex and absolutely lovely well-balanced wine. The nose is met with warm ambrette, nutmeg, crème brûlée and spicy florals lifted by the freshness of lemon and stone fruit. A flavorful and graceful evolution in the mouth opens to a roundness and weight from aging sur-lie is supported and carried through by juicy, ripe pear coming to an unhurried and pleasing decrescendo.
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2018 was a dreamy vintage. Steady rains through the winter gave the soil time to absorb the nourishing moisture. Spring temperatures were right on target with reliable temperatures during bud break and bloom, paving the way for a larger than average yield. Our warm summer temperatures peaked in July, with only one day exceeding 100F. Our ripening months, August and September, cooled off a bit, creating a gentle, even ripening track, free of heat storms. October continued the trend of cooling, but temps stayed above the ’70s, allowing for a near-perfect end-of-season temperature profile.