1993 Napa Valley Chardonnay

Since July and the first half of August 1993 were cool, we were surprised when the first Chardonnay grapes were picked on August 27. The growing year went something like this…It’s a cool season and normal harvest will be in the first week of September…yep, still tracking for first week of September. Whoa! HEAT WAVE! Ten days of very hot weather. HOLY COW WE’RE CRUSHING TOMORROW!!! The heat wave ended August 30 and the subsequent weather during harvest was fine with 10-15 days of outstanding ripening weather. These were days of foggy, overcast mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. In the end, harvest went very smoothly for the 1993 Chardonnay.

The Chardonnay crop was much lighter than we normally see with the lowest production of the last seven years. We harvested only about70% of normal tonnage. The fruit ripened at a steady pace and achieved very good physiological maturity and chemistry, with ripeness and flavors above average. A low vineyard yield usually gives a super quality wine, which is what happened with the1993 Chardonnay. 1986 was a similar vintage, but 1993 had even lower yields.

vintage weather

Cool. Average rainfall with some rain every month through June. Cool spring and cool weather at harvest, good fruit maturation. Crop size average, excellent flavor development.

tasting notes

The best thing about this wine is its holding true to the vineyard characteristics. Fighting the sea of sappy, overblown, oak-dominated Chardonnay that is the current trend, we stay true to the style that put Montelena Chardonnay on the map. Fruit first, varietal Chardonnay, the extract of the land…green apple, pear, melon, and citrus wrapped in a supple and elegantly refreshing wine. We use a small amount of new oak, just a hint, and a bit of barrel fermentation that enriches the palate, but this wine says Chardonnay in a resonance of fruit.

In the glass it is very bright and deep yellow-gold. The nose is redolent of pear and melon with very subdued citrus and faint mineral from the vineyard extract, a result of the low crop yield. Since the mineral note is one of the special aspects of a low yield year, we have purposefully kept in the background the barrel fermented, oak tones of smoky vanilla. Our Chardonnay is made to age and after a few years of cellaring, this characteristic will emerge. The main strength of this wine is the palate. It has a bright fruit entry and a juicy, rich, lemony middle. Different layers of flavors are present throughout, but they are quite delicate. It is soft and lush and refreshing. The finish is smooth and the fruit flavors linger.

At release, the nose is subdued, but the rich and intense palate promises to give real reward with a couple more years aging. We think this wine will age at least ten years and be terrific after 1996 and forward. Don't get in a hurry with this one.

Harvest Date August 27 to September 13
Barrel Aging 6 to 8 months
Bottling Date August 1994
Release Date September 1995
Cases Produced 10,000
Alcohol 13.5%