2012 Chalone Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Chalone AVA
91 Points - Wine Enthusiast
The near-perfect 2012 growing season, with its steady, relaxed harvest, gave this Estate Chardonnay its lush peach, pear, apple and citrus expression. The wine’s complex minerality, precise acidity and opulent texture are the signatures of the Chalone limestone terroir. Partial malolactic fermentation added hints of crème brûlée to the finish, while sur lie barrel aging seamlessly integrated French oak nuances. As this Chardonnay ages, the fresh, lemony notes in the aromas turn to complex brioche nuances.
Sept .11 to Oct. 1, 2012
9 months aged sur lie; 100% French oak barrels (25% new)
100% Barrel fermented
The 2012 vintage was just about perfect in every way. The growing season began with a frost-free spring and excellent conditions for flowering and berry set. The resulting normal-sized crop was welcomed after the very small yields in 2011. The Chardonnay clusters ripened slowly and evenly through the moderate temperatures of summer and early fall, which led to exceptionally ripe fruit flavors with outstanding balance. We picked our Chardonnay grapes from September 11 to October 1, as each vine section achieved full maturity. To preserve vibrant fruit character and acidity, we hand harvested the Chardonnay at night and immediately pressed the whole clusters. We barrel fermented all of the juice in French oak for layers of complexity and then allowed 60 percent of the wine to complete malolactic fermentation to round the acidity. Stirring of the yeast during barrel aging (sur lie) enhanced the mouthfeel and integrated flavors.
We sourced this Chardonnay from our oldest, highest-quality vineyards, with half of the grapes coming from our estate vineyards planted in 1971, 1972 and 1973. An additional 20 percent came from an outstanding 1985 planting, which Richard Boer grafted using budwood taken from vines planted in 1946 on the estate. These Macwood heritage selections yield tiny berries that contribute intensity and structure to the wine. The oldest Chardonnay vines in this blend were planted in 1919. The venerable age of our vineyard sourcing gives our 2012 Estate Chardonnay its intense flavors, quality and typicité. “By typicité, I mean wines that speak of the varietal character and the place that’s Chalone,” explains Winemaker Robert Cook. “It’s in their mouthfeel, texture, brightness and minerality.”