2019 “The Bench” Chardonnay
The Bench Chardonnay routinely strikes a balance between ripe fruit character with a subtle brush of oak and the bright, natural acidity that Chardonnay grown in a cool spot exhibits.The Bench Chardonnay routinely strikes a balance between ripe fruit character with a subtle brush of oak and the bright, natural acidity that Chardonnay grown in a cool spot exhibits. The 2019 rendition captures this part of our vineyard perfectly, with aromas of apples and lemon and a touch of tropical star fruit. In the mouth, the texture is zippy, with a balanced, bright acidity and flavors that reflect the aromatics plus a touch of spice: star anise and cinnamon. Medium-long length leads to a clean finish. In the mouth, the texture is zippy, with a balanced, bright acidity and flavors that reflect the aromatics plus a touch of spice: star anise and cinnamon. Medium-long length leads to a clean finish.
The maritime environment of the Carneros grape-growing region delivers cool, foggy mornings followed by warm days that slowly nurture ripening. This seaside influence is particularly acute at our Poseidon Vineyard; one can see the masts of boats bobbing in the water just a few steps to the south. The prominent feature of our vineyard is the gravelly, geological “Bench”—the elevated, rocky, former riverbank of Carneros Creek—that runs serpentine through the center of the site. From this unique geological feature spring some of our most distinct, small-production wines.
The 2019 growing season got off to a wet and cool start, but a moderate summer allowed for normal vine development and a slightly above-average sized crop. As the summer progressed, the vines made up for some of their late start. A comfortable fall allowed for longer hang time, good fruit maturity and excellent flavor development. The harvest started with a leisurely pace and quickened at the start of October. As a precaution against wildfires, our cellar was in the power company’s blackout zone, throwing the crew for a loop. But our outage was short, and proved harmless to the ongoing fermentations—it was one of the few sources of anxiety in an otherwise textbook season.
Our “Bench” Chardonnay is pressed whole-cluster in small batches and then barrel-fermented in 20% new, 300-liter barrels that are lightly toasted specifically for this wine. These special, larger-format barrels provide all the good things that barrel fermentation brings to Chardonnay: full body and sweeter flavors. The unique low toast of the barrels ensures that the fruit aromas and flavors will shine through. A special yeast strain is used to promote a long fermentation, adding a new level of complexity to this wine. Lees stirring after Malolactic fermentation is employed to boost the smooth, elegant texture.
Alex Beloz, Winemaker