Grapes: Siletto Vineyard Chardonnay
Profile: Aromas of lime and pear with hint of oak spice. Dense and fuller bodied on the palate than the filtered version with upright tart acidity.
Pairing: Cheese, poultry, fish with creamy sauces, and vegetarian fare.
11 cases produced.
Many of our wines start from the heart – in this instance, literally so. Ron Siletto’s cardiologist, Dr. Dwain Coggins (aka DDC), is a friend and client and made the introduction that gave us access to the Siletto Vineyard grapes in this outstanding crossover Chardonnay.
Getting access to this impressive fruit was the easy part. Getting it home posed the real challenge. On the way to our pre-dawn harvest our rental truck engine blew. This time a pair of Drs. Coggins came to our rescue, DDC and Rebecca (aka DRC). The good doctors ferried our bins and dry ice to the vineyard in their pickup before setting off to perform electro-cardiac surgery and head an ER, respectively.
The sun was setting when we pulled into the winery in our second rental truck, and the ever-present DDC met us – still in scrubs – to sort and press the precious fruit. The gently extracted juice was chilled below freezing for three days before being allowed to warm back up to a perfect Renaissance Allegro yeast-ready 61.5º F.
A cool and clean fermentation was followed by racking to a mix of neutral French barrels and stainless steel tanks. Fourteen months after our harvest odyssey our bounty made it to blending and bottling. This included 11 unfiltered cases, which offer a purity of essence that is always our goal.
This delightful Chardonnay is a crowd pleaser with an upright acidity and no buttery notes nor sweetness.
My very friendly client Dwain Coggins had been Ron Siletto’s cardiologist. It was this connection that enabled us to source this fruit for our joint project to produce a crossover Chardonnay that would please the palate of a classic California Chardonnay drinker and have the balance of a classical Burgundian Chardonnay; lightly extracted barrel and stainless steel aged with bright upright acidity, moderate alcohol, and without buttery notes or sweetness.
Cienega Valley is a special nook outside of Paicines, CA with a lot of California winemaking history from Almaden to Calera to Makasi. It lies two mountain ranges to the east of the Monterrey Bay. This old vineyard of sandy loam alluvial soil with 6-foot-tall Chardonnay vines is sheltered from the hot southern and afternoon western sun by the Gabilan Mountains allowing the grapes to ripen slowly despite the hot surrounding area.
Getting this fruit to the winery was a difficult task indeed. While hauling the empty picking bins and dry ice to the vineyard for a pre-dawn harvest, my rental truck’s engine blew. We made two trips with Dwain’s pick-up to deliver the bins and ice in time for the crew to complete the harvest. Then I scrambled to secure another truck to haul the loaded bins, and rallied back to the vineyard by mid-day, while Dwain performed electro-cardiac surgery. By the time I made it back to the vineyard, it was already afternoon. Fortunately, the fruit was still relatively cool from being picked before sunrise and covered with reflective white lids. We added 25 ppm sulfur dioxide and 22 lbs of dry ice per ½ ton picking bin to inhibit the ubiquitous vinegar bacteria from spoiling our grapes before we could get them back to the winery to process.
The sun was setting as we pulled into the winery, and Dwain met us still in scrubs ready to sort and press the precious fruit. We pressed up to 0.8 bar with a pectolytic and glycosydic enzyme preparation to help liberate juice and flavor compounds. At 0.8 bar some grippiness was detected on the tongue, so we collected the higher-pressure press fractions to be cold settled and fermented separately. Thirty six hours of toil to get these grapes juiced safely to one of the Stooges, a glycol jacketed stainless steel tank at the winery. The juice was chilled to below freezing temperatures for 3 days, after which we racked off the settled grapes solids to another temperature controlled stainless steel tank under an inert gas blanket of Argon. We mixed in 2.5 grams of tartaric (grape) acid per Liter anticipating a significant loss of acidity due to intended malolactic conversion. This loss would affect the structure and vulnerability to spoilage of the wine. After five days allowing the juice to reach a temperature where the yeast could get started (61.5 F), we inoculated with Renaissance Allegro yeast. Thank you for the clean fermenter, Dr. Bisson!
After a two weeklong, cool (peak temperature 65 F at finish), and clean fermentation we racked the dry wine, lees and all, to five neutral French barrels and two 300 L stainless steel tank. The wine was inoculated with a low diacetyl (butter) producing malolactic bacteria.
We monitored the malolactic conversion to assess whether the acid structure was becoming too flabby, or if diacetyl (butter) was being produced by our bacterial comrades. The acid structure remained to our liking and the diacetyl remained at bay allowing us to complete malolactic conversion and potentially have a wine we could bottle unfiltered.
We did pick up some bitterness on the mid-palate prompting us to perform batonnage (lees stirring) on the barrels at three-week intervals for seven months. The lees in the tanks were left to settle on the bottom where they became an oxygen sink protecting the aging wine from oxidation.
Fourteen months after harvesting the fruit, we finalized our blending trials, and racked off the lees blending the barrels with the tanks. None of the harder press fractions lots made it into the blend. The wine was super chilled for 14 days to cold stabilize (i.e. precipitate Potassium Bitartrate crystals, aka cream of tartar). We do this so that the crystals do not form in the bottle, and spark fear in the minds of those who don’t know what the crystals are.
The majority of the wine was sterile filtered, while a precious 11 cases were bottled unfiltered.
This Chardonnay offers aromas of lime and pear with a medium bodied balanced acidity that will pair up well with cheese, poultry, fish, and creamy sauces.
Download Siletto Chardonnay Technical Specifications >