1996 Napa Valley Chardonnay

After a very hot summer the 1996 harvest was forecast to begin early. A late cooling trend slowed things down so that we began with Chardonnay on September 2nd… very normal timing. The Chardonnay harvest was steady and relaxed due to the light crop. The fruit ripened at a steady pace and achieved very good physiological maturity and flavors and good chemistry. The grapes looked great, and then, as well as now, we wished for more.

vintage weather

Hot. Average rainfall. Mild winter, untimely spring rains and intense summer heat resulted in low vineyard yields. Ripening weather in September-October was excellent. Lightest crop size since 1988, very high extraction and very concentrated juice.

tasting notes

We have been fine-tuning our yeast and barrel methodology, carefully matching the oak and yeast to the specific vineyard site. Because the 1996 vintage Chardonnay is slightly more aggressive and concentrated these extra touches and work really show terrifically in the finished wine.

In the glass it shows the typical Montelena brilliant green-gold. It has a huge aroma of bright fruit, that essence of Napa Chardonnay between green apple and peach, with hints of citrus and honeysuckle in the side tones. It is really complex and I know it sounds kind of corny, but to the nose it is a huge bowl of fruit… Fantastic! The palate follows very well with a soft fresh front, very tasty fruit - pear mostly. The structure and acid-fruit balance is very fine, and the extract from the low yielding vineyards comes through with a bit more spice than usual. One of the best parts of this vintage is the super finish: completely dry with clean fresh fruit and extraordinary length for its softness. This is a classic Montelena Chardonnay with great finesse… enjoy this with a chill just slightly below cellar temperature.

Harvest Date September 2 to September 14
Sugar At Harvest 23.8° brix average
Barrel Aging 6 to 8 months
Bottling Date August 1997
Release Date September 1998
Cases Produced 7,500
Alcohol 13.5%