My wine consultant/oenologist, Sergio and I do not always see eye-to-eye. He’s amazing, don’t get me wrong. He’s a young, dynamic winemaker from Mendoza, Argentina and I’m fortunate to have him on my team. He’s a scientist and I’m an artistic “type”. He has a degree and I have my own palate which I strive to recreate in my wines. He’s a young dude, and I’m a woman of a “certain” age. Hahaha. So working with him this past season has been super interesting, edifying, and at times confounding.
Let’s take my new Chardonnay for example. There are so many styles and so many choices that a winemaker can make, particularly when it comes to Chardonnay! Well, after reading loads and loads I got it in my head that I wanted to barrel ferment because I am partial to the idea of the oak being subtly integrated rather than appearing as an afterthought or “addition.” Stainless steel Chardonnays which are all the rage now simply do not light up any of my love lights. That’s just me. My previous barrel fermented white wine experience was a Semillon at the Mendoza winery where I interned in April 2016. I was captivated with this wine and became obsessed with the process. After some frenetic online studying I was convinced that I should employ this technique for my very first white wine in Guadalupe Valley, Baja California and I considered this small production an experiment. Sergio insisted that if I wanted to barrel ferment it would be a complete waste of time if I didn’t use new French oak. I could not afford new French oak which runs upwards of $2000 USD/barrel. Just was not in my budget. So I went to our local cooper here in the valley to look for options. He had a renovated American oak barrel that had previously held white wine and it was affordable. I jumped on it.
We barreled immediately after press and as fermentation progressed the developing aromas completely blew me away. I’m just saying. It was a love affair from day one.
I was faced almost immediately with another winemaker decision. I had to decide whether to let the wine go through a secondary fermentation. “Malolactic” fermentation is a natural process that transforms the tart acidity of malic acid into creamy lactic acids. This process is utilized to create the super creamy, buttery Chardonnay’s that California is most famous for. I believe there is a wine for every occasion and I enjoy my CA Chard when I’m in the mood. However in this case I simply did not want to give up the heavenly fruit aromas which a secondary fermentation would suppress. So again, Sergio and I discussed the options and I chose unequivocally to halt secondary fermentation to preserve the fruit that I found so intoxicating.
My personal tasting notes on this wine include sweet Asian pear, ripe peach and juicy nectarine on the nose, a big, silky mid palate, and a hint of toasted coconut on the finish (from the American oak). This wine has enough body to hold up to a variety of dishes. I particularly like it with smoked salmon ravioli in a buerre blanc sauce, but use your imagination. Tell me about your favorite pairings in the Comments!
Vaya con vino!