Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
I have a long history making Chardonnay. In fact, I have made it longer than any other wine, if you include the internships I did while still in college. So it was a little odd that for the first several years of my own brand there was no Chardonnay among my offerings.
In 2008 I decided I needed to acknowledge that part of my past and make a little bit of Chardonnay. The fruit is from the La Cruz vineyard southeast of the town of Petaluma—not the “true” Sonoma Coast out by the ocean, but a special place for the Chardonnay grape nonetheless. The vineyard lies in the hills to the east of the Petaluma River, facing west. My fruit came out of two adjacent blocks, both planted to older Californian Chardonnay selections. One, the so called Wente clone, traces its lineage back to the winery and vineyard it is named after and is one of the oldest Chardonnay selections in the state. It is shy bearing and is favored by winemakers because the low yields lead to concentrated and flavorful wines with a mineral note that is uncommon in California. The other is a clone that is underappreciated in California called simply “clone 4.” It is misunderstood because it has a tendency to set a large crop, and if not farmed properly and in the correct place, it will produce large quantities of sound but somewhat uninteresting wine. But if it is planted on leaner ground and is farmed to a more modest crop level, and then allowed to fully ripen, it can produce wines of great structure, concentration and, most importantly, acidity. Recently I have begun exploring different vessels for aging my Chardonnay. I have begun using larger format barrels and small concrete tanks. The results of this work appeared first in the 2013 wines. Simply put, using these alternate vessels for aging the wine has kept it fresher, more focused. I am very pleased with the results so far.
In 2015 furthered the exploration by adding another vineyard to the mix--the Barlow Homestead vineyard owned by Small Vines Wines, and the source of my Habitat bottling. Located northwest of Sebastopol, with very different soils and climate than la Cruz, it makes wines of great precision and energy, a perfect compliment to the more generous, brightly fruity wines from La Cruz. With this change, I think the wine took another step forward.