For many years an older six-and-a-half acre section of our Hammer Olsen vineyard—planted on AXR1 rootstock, 525 vines/acre—reliably produced juice that served as the base wine in our Chardonnay Table Wine. The vines were slowly succumbing to phylloxera and in anticipation of their eventual removal, in 2017 we replanted the five-acre Apple field with Chardonnay vines on phylloxera-resistant rootstock, 1,991 vines/acre. Thinking that the Apple field's 2021 production would replace what we lost in Hammer Olsen, we removed the AXR1 vines after the 2020 harvest.
The center of our Hammer Olsen Chardonnay vineyard contained our oldest vines but they had severely declined in recent years due to phylloxera. The vines were removed in 2021 and the field was covered with compost and limestone in spring 2022. In this photo from July, the soil is being ripped to a depth of three feet and mixed with amendments, which will make it easy for the young vines—scheduled for planting in 2023—to send down their roots.
Harvesting white grapes at night. In addition to the enological benefits of processing cold grapes, the harvest crew picks faster without the added stress of exhausting daytime heat and yellow jacket wasps buzzing nearby.
Rainfall that winter failed to fill our irrigation ponds so in 2021 our vineyards were put on a reduced water diet. The young vines in the Apple field didn't react well and by late August we became concerned as the vines looked tuckered out. We decided to harvest the crop for sparkling wine so that the vines could store up sufficient carbohydrates for the next season. We phoned everyone we knew for additional grapes and as a result, this bottling is a cuvée of grapes from four appellations: Anderson Valley, Potter Valley, Mendocino and Arroyo Seco in Monterey. For this reason, we used the County designation. About half of the wine was fermented in barrels and the remainder was cool-fermented in stainless steel. The barrel fermentation portion underwent a malolactic fermentation adding roundness and hints of buttered toast. All of the wine lots were aged in a mixture of new and seasoned French oak barrels and puncheons, adding some Asian spices and vanilla notes to the cuvée. Double Gold Medal winner.