Grapes: Bazzano Vineyard Chardonnay
Profile: Fresh tropical flavors, with banana giving way to Bartlett pear. Aged in 100% stainless steel.
Pairing: Enjoy chilled on its own or with cheese, fish, poultry, or vegetarian fare. Perfect with Indonesian coconut curry.
73 cases produced
We longed to make a beautifully crisp Russian River Chardonnay but had to bide our time until our good friend Farmer Joe Valera could find us the perfect grapes to do so. From the first time we saw this fruit on the vine at the Bazzano Vineyard we knew we had something special.
This fresh, tropical Chardonnay is the product of spectacular late harvest fruit coaxed towards the bottle through conscientious, deliberate, attentive production. Fermented, aged and bottled in cooler conditions it retains the ephemeral esters of primary fermentation, released upon opening.
Left to hang until nearly October 11, these grapes ripened slowly and developed a deep flavor while retaining a lot of their malic acid. Using a light press and relatively cold fermentation – aided by a magical yeast developed by Danny’s microbiologist hero, Dr. Linda Bisson – we were able to keep the profile crisp and fresh. Aged in stainless steel, we closely monitored the malolactic conversion to avoid incurring an overly buttery character.
Though ultimately not able to be bottled unfiltered because of the incomplete malolactic conversion, if opened now this wine does offer the rare opportunity to enjoy the short-lived tropical esters of its primary fermentation bouquet.
Well worth the wait and the effort, this is a drink me now, drink me fresh Chardonnay.
I had been looking for a Russian River Valley Chardonnay that I could make in a bright, crisp, fresh style; temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation with inhibited malolactic conversion to allow for preservation of the fruit’s aromatics and avoid a dominance of oaky buttery characteristics commonly associated with California Chardonnay. My good friend and farmer, Joe Valera, found this fruit for me in the 11th hour of the 2019 white grape harvest.
The Bazzano vineyard sits on rich Russian River Valley floor soil. Its surrounding topography affords it gentle morning sun and direct cooling from the Pacific Ocean to the west in the afternoons. The mature vineyard is in the process of conversion from sustainable conventional management to organic.
Most California Chardonnay is over-ripe and off the vine by mid-September. This fruit hung on the vine until October 11, and still held 5 grams of malic acid per Liter (g/L) without having had its sugars skyrocket. Malic acid gives Granny Smith apples their lip-smacking sourness. I am accustomed to “high malate” at 2 to 3 g/L with tartaric acid being 2 to 3 times the malate concentration. Tartaric acid is grape’s primary acid that gives grapes and wine their tart mouth puckering quality. Unique to this fruit, it had a very high malate concentration and an inverted malate : tartrate ratio. So, the malate was carrying the acid structure instead of the tartaric. Usually a Total Acidity (TA) of 6.5 g/L would translate to pH around 3.5, these grapes’ chemistry further baffled me by having a relatively high pH at 3.80 making the juice and wine more vulnerable to spoilage microbes. Most importantly, this long hangtime for the grapes allowed them to develop more flavor.
Grapes were hand harvested and delivered to the winery on Treasure Island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay personally with a big smile by Joe. At the winery we hand sorted the grapes mostly to ensure that nothing sharp got into the press that could pop the bladder. The fruit came in pristine. Grapes were pressed gently and slowly progressed up to a maximum pressure of 0.8 bar, when we began to detect some grip indicating tannin extraction. At this point we separated harder press fractions into stainless steel drums and kegs to be fermented and aged separately.
We made modest adjustments adding a bit of water and tartaric acid. The water was added to bring the sugar concentration down to a level that would produce a potential alcohol below 14% as opposed to close to 16%. The acid was added to lower the pH enough that spoilage microbes would be inhibited, and less sulfite could be used.
The juice was clarified by cold crashing the tank to 26 F for 3 days.
Fermentation was carried out by Renaissance “Viva” yeast. This yeast was classically bred by my microbiological hero, Dr. Linda Bisson, to lack the ability to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S); the yeast cannot fart😉 Peak fermentation temperature was 63 F, which mitigated blow off of precious aroma and flavor compounds.
When the alcoholic fermentation was complete, we heated the tank to 68 F to facilitate the malo-lactic bacteria. Malo-lactic conversion was monitored closely to catch it before diacetyl (buttery aromas) were produced in excess, and the wine went flabby. Once the butter became perceptible, we chilled the tank and sulfited it to prevent any further conversion.
After four months of winter cold settling, we racked the wine off it’s gross lees, and crashed the temperature to below freezing to cold stabilize the wine prior to sterile filtering and bottling. Because of the gentle handling and low temperature elevage, this wine has retained it’s bright tropical aroma profile and a light spritz of carbon dioxide.
This young beauty can be enjoyed chilled on its own or with cheese, fish, poultry, and vegetarian fare.
Download Bazzano Chardonnay Technical Specifications >