The Tale of Two Reserve Chardonnays
For those of you who have visited the winery, you know that there are a lot of large trees on the JARVIS property. These trees provide Black Birds and Finches a nice perch overlooking one of their favorite snacks, our grapes. Over the years William Jarvis and Dimitri Tchelistcheff recognized that we were losing more and more grapes to the birds. It was in 1996 that they decided it was time to do something about this problem. We began bird netting the vines in an effort to thwart the birds and increase our grape harvest. In the Chardonnay vineyard there was a specific picking zone which the birds preferred over all the other zones in the vineyard, prompting us to name this area Finch Hollow. This specific zone is characterized by particularly shallow soil with exceptional drainage. Once the vineyard was netted and harvested by us instead of by the birds, our winemaker, Dimitri Tchelistcheff noted the very distinct terroir of these grapes from Finch Hollow which gave them an intense tropical fruit characteristic. Dimitri kept close watch on the development of the barrels containing the wine from Finch Hollow. When it came time to taste all the lots for blending William and Dimitri decided that this Finch Hollow wine was definitely of reserve quality. And thus was bottled our first Reserve Chardonnay.
So on to the story of why we released the 1997 and 1998 Reserve Chardonnays at the same time.
Both the 1997 and 1998 Reserve are made of grapes from the Finch Hollow area; both were picked at approximately the same Brix; both went through the same treatment of 9 month in 100% new French Oak and 100% Malolactic fermentation; both had sur lie aging with weekly stirring of the lees; and both have the same alcohol level. The important difference between these two wines is that Dimitri decided not to fine or filter the 1998 Reserve Chardonnay. He felt the exceptional terroir and the extract or creamy mouth feel which this wine developed from aging sur lee and weekly stirring would be diminished even by light fining and light filtration.
Fining is the process of clarifying and stabilizing a wine. A fining agent such as egg whites or bentonite clay is added to a tank and settles through the tank collecting microscopic particles, such as proteins, which might otherwise make the wine hazy or cloudy.
Filtration is a controversial wine-making process whereby solid particles are strained out of the wine with various sorts of filters. In this process the wine is passed through sheets of cellulose, diatomaceous earth, or perlite which trap small particles. Too heavy of a filtration of a wine can rob it of both complexity and capacity to age.
Here at Jarvis our standard method of making Chardonnay is to very lightly fine and filter the wine. This results in a clear wine that maintains most of its flavors and complexities.
When tasting the 1998 Reserve Chardonnay before bottling, Dimitri was astounded by the flavors and complexities of the wine. It had a creamy mouth feel and due to the particular richness and character of this exceptional wine Dimitri made the decision to leave it unfined and unfiltered so that all its attributes would stay intact.
As is our standard procedure here at JARVIS, wines are released when Dimitri thinks they are ready to be enjoyed. He noted that the unfined-unfiltered wines age faster than the stabilized wines because they have more extract (since none is removed by fining and filtration) thus there is more substance to the wine and it binds up the sulfites (SO2) much faster. This is the reason that the unfined unfiltered Chardonnays are ready to drink sooner. Therefore, it was his wish for us to release both the 1997 and the 1998 Reserve Chardonnay at the same time. Approximately 400 cases were made of each vintage.
The 1997 Reserve Chardonnay is a beautifully balanced wine intense in rich fruit, toasty French Oak, and crisp acidity. $52* per bottle.
The 1998 Reserve Chardonnay (unfined / unfiltered) is of a more golden color and slightly hazy. Rich flavors of Apricot and lush tropical fruits abound in this mouth-filling wine. $54* per bottle.
Both wines seem to have found their following which prompted a tasting at the winery to decide the future of our Reserve Chardonnay . . . "lightly fined and filtered, or unfined/unfiltered". We found both wines to be wonderful in their own characteristics and we felt that some of our customers would like the experience of a truly natural Chardonnay which led to the decision to also bottle a certain percentage of the next vintage of Reserve Chardonnay unfined and unfiltered.