The Chardonnay at Block B on our Oak Hill site was planted in 1974, making it one of the two oldest vineyards at Chalk Hill. Though its rootstocks, budwood and trellis system no longer seem "cutting edge," the vineyard consistently proves one of the basic tenets of winemaking dogma: site is the most important factor in grape and wine quality. The soil at Oak Hill is deep with excellent water-holding capacity. Even without irrigation, the vines always show a perfect balance between fruit and vegetation. With minimal viticultural intervention the vines thrive and yield incredibly concentrated and exotically complex Chardonnay. The 1996 growing season, with its ample heat, extracted the quintessential expression of this vineyard enclave. This Estate Vineyard Selection Chardonnay is replete with ripe citrus and tropical fruit flavors, and the finish is rich and voluptuous.
The wine was produced with traditional Burgundian methods: whole cluster pressing, fermentation with natural yeasts and malolactic bacteria, and ageing sur lies. This Estate Vineyard Selection was matched to a higher percentage of new French oak than our Estate Bottled Chardonnay, and the wine was aged for a longer period.
Chalk Hill Winery
Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery was purchased recently by Bill Foley, proprietor of Foley Family Wines, who will continue the time-honored traditions that Fred Furth began. Founded in 1972 by Fred Furth, the Chalk Hill Estate encompasses 280 acres of carefully positioned vineyards, including the valley floor, hillsides, and ridge tops of a 1300 acre estate. Perpetuating the time-honored traditions of the first land grant pioneers, the Chalk Hill Estate operates as a family farm with the daily tasks of sustainable viticulture flowing seamlessly through the growing season and ultimately to estate bottled wines. Chalk Hill is the only 100% estate winery in the Chalk Hill AVA nestled within the Russian River Valley. The passion for meticulous viticulture has resulted in elegant, world-class wines.
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Twice as large as Napa in size, Sonoma County only makes about half as much wine as its northeasterly neighbor. Because of its vast size, however, Sonoma is able to achieve far more diversity within its borders, which include sub-AVAs that are climatically varied. The atmosphere of Sonoma is decidedly laid-back and down-to-earth, but the wines are serious and well-made, ranging in style from subtle and elegant to rich and powerful. Grape varieties are more varied here, from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The largest sub-AVAs of Sonoma include Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. Each sub-AVA, with its own micro-climate, is unique in its grape varieties and styles of wine. Dry Creek makes a mean Zinfandel while Russian River produces stand up Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Alexander Valley makes some of the better Cabernet Sauvignons in the county and Sonoma Valley creates excellent wines from all the above varieties. Other grapes found throughout Sonoma include Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.