2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay

In 2003, unusual weather in Spring and Summer set us up with healthy vines and balanced grapes just in time for excellent September weather. Thanks to low yields and ideal temperatures during the critical late summer period of ripening and flavor development, our 2003 Chardonnay displays excellent intensity and fruit-forward flavors.

Heat in March brought early budbreak, which was followed by atypically productive rainfall in April. This extra late-Spring water guaranteed excellent vine health for the ensuing dry months from May to October. Good weather prevailed for the rest of the growing season with temperate days and cool nights ensuring our small crop developed balanced sugar and acid levels. During ripening in September, high temperatures early in the month were followed by stable warm weather, which resulted in grapes with fully developed, concentrated and ripe flavors.

Although our stylistic goal is constant, to preserve the grape's natural varietal fruit character with balance and elegance, the winemaking team must assess each vintage's crop and match our approach to each lot in order to maximize its vinous potential. There are manifold decisions to make: when to pick, fermentation temperature and yeast selection, barrel selection and length of aging, and one of the first and most critical is how to press. We have two methods for Chardonnay: whole cluster, where bunches are pressed intact, and de-stemmed, where grapes are pressed after first being knocked off the stalks, which cracks their skins. The first method is gentler, yielding bright, delicate fruit flavors; the second method involves a little extraction of flavor and aroma compounds from the grape skins, giving big, bold aromatics. For 2003, we de-stemmed a little under half the crop and pressed the remainder as whole clusters. As you'll see when you taste the wine, all of these decisions from pressing to bottling add up to one thing: balance, balance, balance.

vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Early bud break, followed by late rains and cool weather in April. Excellent growing conditions all summer. A few days of heat in September brought the first wave of Harvest, followed by temperate weather through October. With the dual conditions during Harvest, wines show a distinctive blend of cool and hot vintage characteristics.

tasting notes

In the glass, this Chardonnay has a beautiful, deep yellow-gold color. Immediately enticing and appealing, the aroma is full of lush fruit with spicy and strong varietal character. The warm weather during ripening shows on the palate in fruit-forward flavors: ripe green apple, lemony tropical flavors, and a hint of kiwi. The traditional Montelena styling is evident in the wine’s soft, round body and refreshing acidity. If aged for a few more years, the background notes of mineral, yeast and oak will begin to emerge, adding even greater complexity. This is a truly classic and elegant Chardonnay with full flavors and excellent balance.

Harvest Date September 11 to September 25
Sugar At Harvest 22.1° to 26.0° brix
Barrel Aging 6 to 8 months
Bottling Date August 2004
Release Date Summer 2005
Cases Produced 7,900