Pale straw and brilliant in color, the 2015 Bench Chardonnay boasts aromas of cream soda, lime oil, ginger root and freshly baked baguette. Complexity is enhanced with hints of wet stone and flint. The wine has a cool, crisp and elegant entry with citrus flavors of lemon meringue mixed with fresh mango. The finish is a light stroke of vanilla bean and only a kiss of fine toasted oak.
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 the 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.
2015 was the earliest vintage on record across the state. Four consecutive years of drought led to signifcant stress on the vines. Luckily, our mature vineyards with deep roots not only survived, but thrived, through the heat of a late summer. Earlier on in spring, however, we had a cool period during bloom which hampered set in many areas. Our Pinot Noir was mainly affected, with cluster counts reduced and tiny berry size, with some clusters growing only a couple of inches long. All this was great for quality but brutal on the yields and pocketbook. Our Chardonnay held strong with only slight reductions in crop. Quality was still high in our wines, despite the heat and we made excellent, ripe renditions of our Bench wines.
The fruit was pressed whole cluster in small batches and then barrel fermented in new, 300 liter barrels that were lightly toasted specifically for this wine. These special, larger format barrels provided all the good things that barrel fermentation brings to Chardonnay: full body and sweeter flavors. The unique low toast of the barrels ensured that the fruit aromas and flavors would shine through. A special yeast strain was used to promote a long fermentation, adding a new level of complexity to this wine. Lees stirring after malolactic fermentation was employed to boost the smooth, elegant texture.
Alex Beloz, Winemaker
Michael Blaise Terrien, Founding Winemaker