Beringer Sbragia Limited Release Chardonnay 1999
from Napa Valley, California
As in past vintages, Ed Sbragia chose to barrel ferment and age the 1999 Sbragia Limited Release Chardonnay for almost ten months in custom toasted, new French Nevers oak barrels to encourage nutmeg and caramel notes. Malolactic fermentation and weekly lees stirring enhanced the wine's inherent buttery aromas and flavors and gave it a creamy, rich, viscous mouthfeel.
Early in the 1999 growing season, Beringer's vineyard manager Bob Steinhauer identifed specific blocks at Gamble Ranch Vineyard near Yountville as looking particularly promising. Each year, Gamble's rocky, alluvial soils produce grapes with incomparable richness and a high intensity of flavors. Bob was quite sure the grapes would at least achieve Private Reserve quality but he was hopeful that they might develop enough opulent, honeyed, ripe fruit characteristics to be chosen for Winemaster Ed Sbragia's Limited Release Chardonnay. As harvest approached, Ed and Bob both agreed that Gamble Ranch would produce the grapes best suited for the rich style of the Sbragia's signature wine.
The 1999 was an exceptionally long, cool growing season. Cool spring temperatures delayed bud break, flowering and fruit-set by about three weeks, and the weather remained moderate throughout the growing season. Ed and Bob waited as long as possible before harvesting, pushing the pinnacle of ripeness in the Chardonnay grapes that showed the best potential for richness and complexity, essential for the Sbragia Limited Release, to allow full development of aromas and flavors. The fruit from Gamble Ranch was handpicked so the clusters would be treated as gently as possible.
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