The misty fog of the Lodi delta region snakes in and around the oak tree-studded knolls and vineyards where we harvest our Chardonnay grapes, creating ghostly images in the early morning and evening light. In summer, the cool breezes off the delta temper the region's bright sunshine to give Chardonnay grapes the ideal balance of sugar and acidity with vibrant citrus, tropical and floral character. For our Chardonnay, we fermented half the blend in small oak barrels to impart notes of toasty vanilla, and the balance in stainless steel to retain bright fruit character. We aged the barrel-fermented wine for twelve months to impart silkiness on the palate and nuances of coconut to the long finish. We then blended the two components together just prior to bottling. Voila! A perfectly balanced Chardonnay with layers upon layers of flavors.
We will remember this vintage as the year when all vineyards in the Lodi appellation ripened simultaneously. Crush began on August 6, and by September 20, about 90% of the grapes were harvested. "We crushed grapes non-stop, seven days a week, until mid-September," said Winemaker David Akiyoshi. "We were stretched to the limit but the effort was well worth it. The quality is beautiful." Budbreak occurred fairly close to normal, at the end of March, followed by a warm spring. The vintage was unusual in that all varieties went through bloom and berry set at the same time, which led to the condensed "crush." We harvested Chardonnay grapes in the Lodi AVA (American Viticultural Area) in August and September.
As the top tier of our Woodbridge portfolio, the Select Vineyard Series wines are chosen from our finest vineyards--sites with personalities that we want to capture in a special bottling. Grapes for our Special Selection Chardonnay are grown in the coolest regions of the Lodi AVA, with the greatest influence of fog and cool breezes off the Sacramento delta. The vines are grafted to several different Chardonnay clones that contribute subtle complexity to the wine. The soils also vary with the lay of the land, with differing mineral compositions and depths all contributing to the personality of the vineyard and, ultimately the wine. To complement the Lodi AVA grapes, we chose a quarter of the grapes from Monterey County vineyards in the Central Coast AVA.
Fermentation & Aging
We harvested and gently pressed the grapes in the early morning hours when they were still cool from the night. Because of the intense fruit character in the grapes, we barrel-fermented and aged a higher percentage of the juice than our classic Woodbridge Chardonnay. We also used a combination of native and cultured yeast strains for complexity. We fermented half the juice in small American and French oak barrels (20% new oak) and the balance in stainless steel tanks. The barrel-fermented wine remained in barrels on the yeast lees for a full year; the tank-fermented wine was also kept on its lees. During sur lie aging, the wines were stirred to re-suspend the yeast for a rich, creamy texture. Winemaker David Akiyoshi then blended the two styles of wine together and added a small blend of aromatic white varieties to heighten the floral nuances in the wine.