Our Chardonnay is sourced exclusively from the Gravel Bar Block of the Hawkes’ Stone Vineyard on Chalk Hill Road, planted by our family in 1972. The ranch is a tiny, self-contained valley at the border of the Alexander and Russian River Valleys, totaling about forty acres of vines. The ten acres of Chardonnay grow along Maacama Creek, a tributary of the Russian River.
Fruit from this vineyard has gone into such fabled wines as the Grgich Hills Chardonnays of the 1970s, as well as over a dozen other bottlings that have put the Chalk Hill Region on the map and helped define a style of California Chardonnay based on balance rather than power.
The vineyard soils are various: hillsides made of compressed volcanic ash, clay, and round rock, the lowlands, where the Chardonnay grows, made of mostly deep, sandy loam. The Gravel Bar Block is named for the remains of an extinct creek that cuts across the eastern half of the Chardonnay field. The soil break is invisible on the surface, but the effect on the vines is pronounced. The berries and bunches are smaller and ripen earlier, and the finished wine is a paradoxical combination of fruity and flinty flavors.
Our first aim in making Chardonnay is to preserve and accentuate the exceptional character of the vineyard. We fermented half in stainless steel, half in neutral barrels, with about twelve months on the lees, stirring once a week. It is divided into two lots; one of which undergoes malolactic fermentation, and the other one of which does not. These two lots are then blended to taste just before bottling.
In 2009, we planted one acre of Semillon next to our Chardonnay on our historic Stone Vineyard, right along the bank of Maacama Creek on Chalk Hill Road. We have been growing grapes on this site at the border of Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley since 1972 and it has a no-fail pedigree for producing white wines that reflect the unique, dual-appellation climate, as well as the ash-laden, mineral-rich soil.
The grapes were harvested in early September and cold-fermented in a small tank, then sent to neutral barrels and aged on the lees for about six months before bottling in late spring.