I received word from winemaker Tadeo Borchardt last week that we finished bottling our 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’, and the wine is now ready to ship, so it’s timely to explain the idea behind this wine we produce with no oak contact, and the root of its name. The AVA for the 2018 vintage is ‘Sonoma County’, as once again we have combined fruit from the Larson Vineyard in Sonoma Carneros with fruit from the Trinchero Family Vineyard in the eastern Russian River Valley. Both vineyards were selected for their cool climate, necessary to keep the pH low and the total acidity high, and for their rocky soil base responsible for the characteristic minerality in the wine. The 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’ is especially lovely, with its combination of crisp acidity, refreshingly bright flavors and an expressive, lingering finish. The grapes were hand harvested in mid-October, whole cluster pressed, then using indigenous wild yeast allowed to ferment naturally in 3000-gallon stainless steel fermentation tanks. To increase contact with the yeast lees, we adopted a traditional Chablis technique of gently circulating the lees over the top of the fermenting wine, a process that adds texture, flavor and stability to the finished wine. This circulation or pump-over allows for lees stirring in a tank otherwise too large for manual ‘battonage’. The wine then continues aging on the lees for about four months after fermentation is complete. The 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’ completed 50% of a natural malo-lactic fermentation. The finished wine was lightly filtered and is now ready to enjoy.
The name ‘304’ comes from the grade of stainless steel that is used to fabricate wine fermentation tanks. The process begins with basic steel to which Nickel and Chromium is added during the smelting process. The result is ‘Food Grade’ stainless steel, which is easily cleaned, non-corrosive and anti-bacterial. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is made of stainless steel ‘304’ because of the alloy’s anti-oxidative qualities, and it’s been shining bright since 1965.
Past vintages of this wine have been an eye-opener for many as they display the charm of new-world Chardonnay, while offering the satisfaction, complexity and flavor range we associate with traditional oak-free wines, especially those from Chablis and the Côte Chalonnaise.