February 18, 2020
by Bruce Neyers
Chardonnay vines in the El Novillero Vineyard of Sonoma’s Carneros District
We’re now ready to start shipping our 2017 Carneros District Chardonnay. We’ve enjoyed watching it develop into one of the stars in our history of benchmark Chardonnay bottlings, and we predict and even brighter future.
The 1992 Chardonnay was our first labeled as ‘Carneros District’. It was made with the help of celebrated winemaking consultant Helen Turley. Helen’s winemaking ideas at that time were new and considered radical. They made sense to me only because I had partnered with Kermit Lynch, and was regularly traveling to France to meet with producers in Burgundy whose wines we imported. Her connections to several of those producers increased my confidence in, and comfort with, her techniques.
Helen used the term ‘Double Wild’ to describe her winemaking. It was a reference to the use of wild, native yeast for primary fermentation and wild, native lactic-acid bacteria to support the secondary or malo-lactic fermentation. Crucial to Helen’s process, as well, was pressing the fruit in whole clusters with stems intact to reduce the amount of pulp or solids in the fermenting juice. She fermented in 60-gallon French oak barrels and encouraged a complete, 100% malo-lactic fermentation. The latter allowed her to bottle the wine without filtration.
Few producers in California were willing to take the risks involved in using these techniques in 1992, but now it’s more commonplace. Helen’s ideas raised the consciousness of winemaking during her career, and we at Neyers were one of the beneficiaries. Over the past two decades, our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt has brought his own set of talents to our pursuit of quality.
We have chosen three vineyards as the source for the grapes used to produce this wine, all of them from the Sonoma County side of the Carneros District — the Sangiacomo Vineyard and the Yamakawa Vineyard, just southeast of the town of Sonoma, and the El Novillero Vineyard, in the hills at the far western limit of the Carneros AVA. Each is planted to the ‘heirloom selection’ of Chardonnay known as ‘Shot-Wente’, a small and especially flavorful version of the variety. Tadeo continues to fine-tune our traditional winemaking, and his contributions have brought us even greater recognition.
In a recent review in the ‘Wine Spectator’, Kim Marcus commented on our 2017 Chardonnay ‘Carneros District’:
Refined and refreshing, with lively green pear, apple and citrus flavors, powered by zesty acidity. Quince paste and dried savory notes show on the finish. Drink now through 2023. 5705 cases made. 92 POINTS