The cool and foggy Russian River Valley is a haven for Burgundian-style varietals. Well-drained soils, warm afternoons and nights cooled by Pacific fog yield Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with pure, crystalline flavors. Winemaker John Allbaugh has sought out small, exceptional vineyards, meticulously planted, cultivated and harvested, to bring out the true terroir expression of this appellation.
Lush, ripe white peach, pineapple and pear notes mingle with toasty vanilla and oak spice nuances in the rich aromas and flavors of our 2016 Russian River Chardonnay. A hint of white flower and streak of minerality—typical of Russian River Valley terroir—add enticing complexity. The wine’s pitch-perfect acidity, influenced by the cool Pacific Ocean fog that funnels through a gap in the Sonoma Mountains, gives the wine vibrancy on the richly textured palate. Malolactic fermentation and new French oak barrels enhanced the lingering citrus and crème brûlée finish.
Winemaker John Allbaugh selected several small vineyards, including Mill Station, which he believes epitomize the character of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). Their old vines, with small yields of great concentration, show the fabulous balance and flavor of Chardonnay grown in this cold, foggy appellation. These vines, which are as old as 35 years, are grafted to a collection of Dijon clones and field selections that yield small clusters and berries.
After hand harvesting in the foggy early morning, we immediately pressed the clusters to retain optimum fruitiness and balance in the wine. We fermented all the juice with wild yeast in toasted French barrels (45 percent new oak) for complexity. During malolactic fermentation (100 percent complete) and barrel aging, we gently stirred the yeast lees (bâtonnage) every two weeks to integrate fruit, oak and winemaking flavors and to add weight on the palate.
Here, in one of the coolest appellations of the North Coast, the 2016 vintage even surpassed the highly touted 2014 vintage in grape quality. A very low rainfall winter was followed by a dry, warm spring and nearly ideal summer. These factors resulted in balanced vine canopies, excellent fruit set and small, concentrated grapes. Perfect weather throughout harvest—fostering intense, beautifully balanced and expressive wines—crowned the vintage.