The fall of 2002 was when I first tasted White Burgundy. It was a 2000 Louis Latour Bourgogne Blanc and I knew then Chardonnay is my favorite grape without a close second. It remains the same today as Chardonnay laps its competition for my wine in-take followed by Pinot noir, Garganega and Chianti. It’s probably not a coincidence that I find Chardonnay to be the most fun grape to make wine out of. Often thought of as a blank canvas, Chardonnay demands a sharp winemaker’s stylistic influence. This is similar to a Caesar salad as it can either be the single greatest salad in the world or often the worst when not prepared thoughtfully.
While Pinot noir is about stepping back and showcasing the vines, Chardonnay needs to be clearly directed down its chosen stylistic path. Tan Fruit’s house style has been influenced by every great bottle of Chardonnay I’ve ever drank but especially every great Oregon Chardonnay. When I encounter great chardonnay I like to ‘get under the hood’ and send a sample to the lab for the numbers on everything. If it came from Oregon I like to call them and find out what they did and most likely I’ll start experimenting with it. The strategy has not been to invent anything but to identify what gets the best results and then do that. While experimentation continues and stylistic variables will evolve, I feel confident in the current process.
- Picking decision’s are very important and early as we are looking for lower Phs and potential alcohols between 12.5% and capped at 13.3%.
- The grapes are crushed into the press and pressed with short cycles to limit extraction.
- Most of the juice from the press is settled and shown air to brown before fermentation begins. Giving the wine a big breath of air before fermentation is the main reason there is not much reduction in the wines.
- Fermentation should be vigorous as we are looking for bone dry at less than 0.5 g/L. Chardonnay often begins to quit around 3 g/L so we like strong healthy ferments. Malolactic fermentation is then encouraged.
- Most wines are fermented in barrel although fermenting in steel is on the rise in the cellar. The wines will either ferment and age in barrel for a year and then transfer to tank for 6 months or ferment and age in tank for a year and then transfer to barrel for 6 months. Nothing has surged the quality of Chardonnay in my cellar more than finishing the wines in stainless steel tanks. It tempers new world richness.
- Barrels are from Damy with a few Sirugue Allier extra-tights. The amount of new oak depends on the wine and usually ranges from 0-35 percent.
- After 18-22 months the wines are bottled. Some are filtered, some are not. When filtering, we are looking for a gentle polish. We use a Waukesha-30 lobe pump and a lenticular filter.
- We will try to hold the wines for a year in bottle before release. That could change with market factors but like Chardonnay needs a long elevage, it also benefits greatly from settling into the bottle after 12 months.
To sum it up, this produces clear and pure fruit that reflects the vine’s signature. Structuring the barrel fermented roundness with 6 months in tank has a way of integrating the fruit, wood and acidity into one seamless piece while maximizing freshness, tension and a bone dry finish.
I hope these wines are as much fun to drink as I've had making them.