Carneros, located just north of the San Pablo Bay, is noted for its cool, breezy summer afternoons and the fine Chardonnay that grows here. Having "terroir" is a way of saying the wine has the character of the vineyard. There are approximately 6,000 vineyard acres in Carneros and though the moderate climate is well suited to a number of varieties, nearly half are planted to Chardonnay.
Soil composition plays an equal role in the quality of the wines. Carneros soils tend to be dense, and shallow, with low to moderate fertility. Chardonnay grown in Carneros is typically ripe with flavor profiles that range from citrus and tropical fruit flavors to lovely, more subtle stone fruits, like peach and nectarine.
At Saintsbury, the Chardonnay is fermented in French oak barrels and aged sur lie for about eight months. Thirty percent of these barrels are new; the balance has been used once or twice before. During the aging process, the barrels are stirred (batonnage) to increase yeast contact for added richness. The wine also completes malolactic fermentation in the barrel, which can add roundness to the mouthfeel and complexity to the aroma.
Saintsbury has asked the question "to filter or not to filter" Chardonnay since the 1992 vintage. Following the success of a small "unfiltered" bottling of the 1993 vintage, we have chosen to bottle each subsequent vintage without filtration. The wines show much more vibrant fruit character and rich mouthfeel, particularly in the first year of release, than their filtered predecessors.
The 2001 vintage was no disappointment after the superior 2000. This vintage has brighter fruit, is fresh and lively with similar weight as the 2000, and while enjoyable now, will benefit from cellaring.