2001 Napa Valley Chardonnay

The 30th vintage of Chardonnay for Chateau Montelena was one of mixed blessings. The yields were down but we brought in near perfect fruit. The growing season started ominously with frost in March just when the vines were budding out from winter dormancy, and then another hard frost on April 3rd. The rest of the season we had very good growing weather, including an ideal ripening period. We were able to wait patiently for each block to get full flavor development before picking, so the fruit coming into the winery had wonderful varietal fruit character and excellent fruit/acid balance. As a result of the frosts, we had a woefully small crop, 33% below average; but this very small crop gave us wines of exceptional quality.

In 2001 we continued our practice of picking grapes at night. This keeps our juice temperature as low as 45° to 55° F (a good 10 to 15 degrees lower than day picking), enhancing the fruit flavors. We start picking as early as 3 a.m.; our picking crews wear headlamps and we light up the loading area. We also continued to utilize both whole-cluster pressing and the traditional crush and de-stem methods in our crushing regimen. Both techniques are complimentary to our Chardonnay. The whole-cluster pressed fruit is more delicate in the nose and refined in the mouth, while the crushed fruit shows bright fruit intensity in the nose and bigger fruit flavor on the palate. Since the fruit was so nice and fully ripe, we were able to use whole-cluster pressing on 71% of the total tons received. This has allowed us to make the wine more polished within our signature style, more fruit intensity in the aroma with full but elegant flavors, retaining the Montelena Chardonnay distinctiveness.

vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Well below average rainfall. Frost damage followed by high heat in May that caused some shatter kept yields low. Remainder of season was mild and grapes attained full maturity before picking. Started night picking to increase fruit integrity. Wines are very rich, well-balanced, and full.

tasting notes

In the glass it is a very brilliant yellow gold. The aroma has intense varietal character: spicy green apple, white peach, kiwi and lychee as well as a subtle mineral quality from the low crop yield. On the palate it has very bright fruit, poached pear spice, with the green apple and peach in a big round mouthful of refreshing fruit. As in the aroma, you then pick up the mineral and spice tones. It’s a pretty full palate with a lengthy fruit finish and good balance - refreshing with depth and layers of complexity. We think it is very true to the unique and distinctive Montelena style. It will be one of the best aging Chardonnays we have made in years, but with a killer appeal right out of the gate. We already find it very tasty and hope you do, too.

Harvest Date August 21 to September 4
Sugar At Harvest 22.1° to 23.8° brix
Barrel Aging 6 to 8 months
Bottling Date August 2002
Release Date October 2003
Cases Produced 9,800
Alcohol 14.1%