1997 Napa Valley Chardonnay

The harvest of 1997 was the stuff of legends. Harvest tonnage was up dramatically, and the weather was excellent. All growers had a great yield year, with the white grapes having the most dramatic turnaround after the woefully low crop of 1996.

Harvesting was forecast to begin very early, and we began with Chardonnay on August 21st. Most remarkable was the pace of the harvest… wild and intense. All the Chardonnay was done in 15 days, with the last lot finished on September 4th. This was the biggest Chardonnay crop in many years, and the quality is very high.

The Chardonnay grapes came in very ripe, so there is no question that the style of the wine is California, with slightly lower acids and softer round fruit. For the most part there were mild to warm days with cool evenings and mornings. This allowed the ripening to take place at a fairly even pace. I would characterize the vintage as similar in style to 1986 and 1992. Our fine-tuning for the vintage is evident in the final wine, as we were exceedingly careful with the oak matching this year.

vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Average rainfall, warm winter and spring, mild summer. Slow ripening and wonderful weather during harvest, warm days and cool mornings. Large crop, the wine is very dense and extremely flavorful.

tasting notes

This wine is brilliant green-gold, with yellow highlights. The nose is simply a big bowl of luscious chardonnay fruit - pear, green apple, cinnamon, kiwi, and gooseberry - expounding heartily the virtues of the vineyard and grapes… Fantastic. On the palate it follows very well with a refreshing clarity of fruit - big, juicy, round and supple. It is especially fine on the finish and really leaves you wanting more. The aftertaste is very balanced and carries good fruit. Here, too, the winemaking, with our trademark kiss of oak and other cellar tones, is in the background.

This is a great vintage and we think we have done a good job on this wine, naturally. After a long day of harvest we usually have a glass of wine while planning the next day's work. Since we work at the mighty Montelena we normally have some good old red wine. But, even though it had just been bottled, during the 1998 crush we surprised even ourselves by loving this wine and choosing it many nights. When you taste it, you will know why.

Harvest Date August 21 to September 04
Sugar At Harvest 22.4° to 24.5° brix
Barrel Aging 6 to 8 months
Bottling Date August 1998
Release Date September 1999
Cases Produced 14,000
Alcohol 13%