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The Etude Chardonnay is sourced exclusively from our estate vineyard at Grace Benoist Ranch, which is located in the northwest corner of the Carneros appellation. Our Chardonnay vineyards have deep, well-drained cobbly clay loam soils, perfect for growing grapes of exceptional expression. The cooler maritime temperatures at Grace Benoist Ranch provide for a long and even growing season, allowing the fruit to fully ripen in harmony with the vines’ physiological development.
From six special acres in the heart of the Grace Benoist Ranch, our estate Chardonnay is iconic, representing all that is memorable about Carneros. Vibrant yet elegantly restrained, the wine is crafted as a showcase for the fruit, without malolactic fermentation and the lightest touch of oak. Aromas and flavors of classic Chardonnay signatures—including Bartlett pear and crisp green apple—are joined with lemon zest, citrus blossom and mineral notes. A solid acid backbone, with great structure and balance, are the hallmark of this wine each vintage.
A true reflection of the winery’s Grace Benoist Ranch estate vineyard, this wine is a blend of the best blocks on the Ranch, tucked away in the far northwest corner of the Carneros appellation. Unlike most Carneros vineyards, which are largely uplifted bay bottoms with soils composed of clay, the soils on Grace Benoist Ranch are variations of volcanic origin. Combining these well-drained, rocky upland soils with the extreme western location closer to San Pablo Bay, make this cooler site an ideal place to grow Burgundian varieties.
After three years of plentiful harvests, the 2015 vintage brought low, but outstanding yields. A mild spring and summer with almost no rain allowed the fruit to ripen at a very steady and deliberate pace, and picking began a few days earlier than 2014. The drier-than-normal conditions and abundant sunshine contributed to the smaller berry size and low yields, resulting in wines with excellent concentration, color and flavor.
The fruit for our Carneros Estate Chardonnay was harvested at night and gently whole-cluster pressed before being transferred to neutral French oak barrels for fermentation. The wine was bottled after 11 months of maturation, with a weekly stirring of the lees for the initial two months of aging to enhance aromatics and increase mid-palate texture. Our Chardonnay is crafted to showcase the unique terroir of Grace Benoist Ranch and did not go through malolactic fermentation in order to capture the natural acidity and beauty of cool-climate Carneros Chardonnay.