We organically and Biodynamically grew this Chardonnay at our cool American Canyon and Carneros vineyards, where the grapes developed complex flavors while maintaining a pleasing natural acidity. Our Chardonnay does not undergo malolactic fermentation, which preserves the wine’s crispness and acidity to balance its concentrated fruit. This elegant Chardonnay has luscious aromas of baked pear, lychee nuts, and wild honey.
The first reason Carey and I decided to travel to Napa Valley was the need for a beautiful honeymoon destination after our October wedding in Nantucket; the second reason had much to do with our love for red wine. The third reason? Well, let’s just say it was not because of the Chardonnay. I know this is an odd way to introduce a review for a benchmark wine like this, but I honestly haven’t understood the cult-like frenzy that surrounds Napa Chardonnay.
Thick and golden in the glass, deep oaken saturation, buttery textures, and fruit on the side—Malolactic fermentation (the process of converting the wine’s tart, malic acid to a softer, lactic acid) at its best. A concept I could not grasp before our trip only baffled me more as the vineyard visits clicked by. I would just politely smile and nod while I listened to the soft voices of tasting room officials: “This has has undergone a full malolactic.” “All our Chards go through malo, isn’t it nice?” “Malolactic fermentation and 48 months in 100% new oak.” Well, that last one was an exaggeration, but you get the point. When did this style of winemaking take hold in California, and why? I just don’t know, but when I come across the answer, you’ll be the first to know.
Last Friday after work I was spinning this familiar bottle around in my hands after it caught my eye on the weekly tasting docket at Purdy’s in downtown Saratoga Springs. I have never had any wine from Grgich Hills, but Mike Grgich is a winemaker I am certainly familiar with. Grgich is the famed winemaker who carried Chateau Montelena to victory in the historic 1976 Paris Wine Tasting. I set it back on the rack (at $35, this is a pricey white) unaware that a few hours later I would be given a bottle of my own—a gift from my good friend Andy and his girlfriend Melissa who came to visit us for the weekend.
The differences between this Estate Chardonnay and its other malolactic Napa counterparts are staggering. In the glass, the Grgich Hills Chard is bright and light, almost sun bleached, with hints of grassy green undertones (a big plus in my book). With a conservative 30% usage of new French oak, the wood influence is tamed. The remaining 70% of barrel aging is done in a mix of neutral barrels and 900 gallon casks. No oak chips here! I found this wine opens in the mouth as distinctly Chardonnay, only to split from the pack and impart a far more delicate fruit and mineral balance.
The Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay brought me back to Napa. Now I am inspired to hunt down more Chard, sans malo! Thank you Andy, you have helped to reopen a door that has long since been closed!