With "feet of clay" our meticulously tended vines issue forth, each year, from restrained yields, this perfumed and intensely concentrated Chardonnay. The vines shiver through foggy mornings waiting for the afternoon sun to warm them sufficiently to ripen their bounty. When autumn arrives, each bunch is hand-picked at night to preserve its freshness and delivered cool and healthy to the winery. Here we eschew destemming and crushing in favor of whole cluster pressing, a laborious but extremely gentle process of separating the juice from its skins, avoiding the bitter tannins that might otherwise be extracted. The freshly squeezed juice is then drained to French oak barrels where it will remain until assemblage and bottling some 10 months later.
No yeasts are added to the new juice as we prefer the complexity and individuality provided by the indigenous, or "wild" yeasts that convert the sugar to alcohol. The secondary fermentation, converting the hard malic acid to the softer lactic, is completed by a cultured bacteria imported from Burgundy. Although native malo-lactic fermentation is an option, we find it lends too much bitterness to the wine, and we prefer our Chardonnay to retain its unique purity of fruit, and long, cleansing finish.
To broaden the palate and mouth-feel of the wine we employ battonage, a technique that involves stirring the yeast lees in each barrel on a regular basis. By keeping the lees in suspension the wine's pure fruit character is guarded against oxidation and the wine seems to put on some weight, or "fatness," as well as being less astringent and sharp. But finally, it is the vineyard's inherent aromatic and taste persona, such as nectarine, white peach and acacia blossom that infuses the wine with its distinctive flavors. To fully capture these traits we decant the wine off its lees and, after a gentle clay fining, we bottle the wine unfiltered.
These simple, traditional and time-honored techniques are our way of delivering the purest expression of Mitsuko's Vineyard Chardonnay, capturing in bottle the dramatic nuances intrinsic to each vintage.