Napa Valley offers a spectrum of microclimates and soil types ideal for cultivating Chardonnay. Cakebread Cellars source fruit for their Napa Valley Chardonnay primarily from vineyards in the valley’s cool-climate southern districts, ranging from the fog-chilled Carneros appellation to slightly warmer sites just north of the town of Napa. This diversity of terroir allows them to craft a rich, elegantly structured Chardonnay that drinks beautifully on release, but ages well in bottle. To enhance the wine’s freshness and protect the vineyard workers from harvest-time heat, they pick their fruit at night or early morning, ensuring it arrives at the winery in pristine condition.
2010 was the latest in a string of cooler-than-normal growing seasons in Napa Valley. The year began with substantial rainfall, which pushed back bud break, flowering and grape set by several weeks. After an especially cool summer, heat spikes in late August kick-started full ripening. Cooler temperatures returned in early September, but classic Indian summer weather yielded grapes with mature, concentrated flavors at lower-than-normal sugar levels. This resulted in a bevy of lower-alcohol, beautifully structured wines with rich, elegant flavors.
Cakebread Cellars' winemaking regimen with Chardonnay is predicated on night harvesting, which ensures the grapes are picked cold and retain their fruit purity and bright natural acidity. After a short drive to the winery, the fruit is whole-cluster-pressed – further preserving freshness and purity – and the juice is transferred to a combination of French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks for fermentation. In 2010, 88% of their Chardonnay juice fermented in barrel, while 12% became wine in tank, with 11% undergoing a secondary, malolactic fermentation. All but a small percentage of the component wines aged in barrel for eight months on the yeast lees, with periodic stirring, to enhance texture and richness while preserving full varietal expression.
The 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay boasts an attractive light golden-straw color and fresh, lightly buttery, ripe golden apple, pear and citrus aromas, complemented by seductive vanilla and cinnamon/nutmeg scents from oak aging and subtle yeast tones from lees contact. Lush, concentrated and creamy on the palate, its ripe apple, melon, bright citrus and baking spice flavors culminate in a long, beautifully structured finish boasting crisp acidity and zesty mineral and spice tones. Sumptuous, yet refreshing, the 2010 Chardonnay is delicious now, but will handsomely reward another 3-5 years’ bottle aging.