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Chardonnay is whole-cluster pressed (as with sparkling wine) and for the Alexander Valley fruit from my father’s vineyard, stopped at very low juice yields, giving more fine elements. With my two manually operated ‘bladder presses’ (please forgive the connotation) this requires hours of valve twisting, button pushing, lever hefting and scurrying about reminiscent of Dorothy and her associates’ first meeting with the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. This is important to making high quality Chardonnay (the taking of only the first and finest juice as opposed to the scurrying), and especially critical for grapes from the less cool areas like Alexander Valley. 100% barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation both with native microorganisms, typically 16-17 month barrel aging, and unfiltered bottling are typical for us.
Our young Scherrer Vineyard Chardonnays seem to have a signature lime note and a leaner, higher acidity pose. It is starfruit for the Helfers with a more rubenesque, generous and textural feel. Interestingly, these kinds of youthful notes are preserved well with longer barrel time, while the bubble-gum ‘baby-fat’ is not.
What is fascinating is that the Scherrer Vineyard Chardonnays from a warmer locale than Helfer Vineyard present higher acidity and more lean-minerality. It is consistent and defies typical stereotypes. They are both two different kinds of ‘good.’