Have you ever heard of the physical condition Lackochardtonitis? We hadn’t until about 2014 when the number of cases we saw in the tasting room sky-rocketed. The really worrisome development, however, is when Lackochardtonitis morphs into Lackolactochardtonitis, and this is exactly what we experienced in 2015 during the drought years.
Both Lackochardtonitis and Lackolactochardtonitis exhibit the same symptoms: sweaty palms, dryness in the mouth, a smacking in the lips and a general sense of confusion when told we’re sold out of Ch
ardonnay. The difference between the conditions is that Lackolactochardtonitis comes with more disbelief and a ‘hair-pulling-out tendency’ of frustration by customers when there is no Signature Chardonnay available.
So now imagine how it’s been in the Madroña tasting room, seeing this condition 3, 4, or 1000 times every day for the last four years! It’s true that we haven’t produced a Signature Chardonnay since last vintage in 2013 (we just didn’t get the production off our 40+ year-old Chard vines through the drought years).
Now for those of you who have discovered Madroña only in the last three years, you’ve actually never known our Signature Chardonnay even existed. You probably don’t even know what all the hub-bub is all about. Well, our Signature Chardonnay is an Estate-Grown Chardonnay, barrel-fermented in a higher percentage of new oak barrels and aged sur lees for at least 10 months.
Or in other words, Madroña’s Signature Chardonnay harkens back to style of Chardonnay that is so much more difficult to find today; a Chardonnay that’s big, bold, buttery and balanced!
I can see you saying to yourself, “How can Madroña make two such completely different styles with the Hillside Collection being fruit-oriented and the Signature Collection being so richly textured?” Ah, a very good question, and it all comes down to Chardonnay clones, picking decisions, barrel choices, fermentation parameters, aging parameters and about 43 other things. Ultimately, though, I’d say the clones of Chardonnay play the biggest part in all of this.
The concept of clones in grapes is somewhat hard to grasp. We grow 4 different clones of Chardonnay: Clone 95, Clone 76, the Wente Clone and old Clone 4. Each clone is genetically Chardonnay, but they express unique characters. “How’s this possible?” you ask.
Well, over time, a vineyard owner may notice that one particular vine exhibits a trait that would be nice to have throughout the vineyard. It could be a fruit character, it could be crop load, it could be late maturing, or it could be a host of other things. But all that farmer needs to do is take buds from that unique vine and graft them into the vineyard. Then all the vines will exhibit the same unique character (until which point a vine or two expresses it slightly differently).
But this isn’t all that important to our Signature Chardonnay story. What is important is that our Signature Chardonnay is traditionally a blend of the two Dijon Clones (76 & 95) and the old Wente Clone. The Dijon Clones tend to show riper Chardonnay characters at a lower maturity (allowing for texture and richness while not having a hard-to-balance high alcohol). The Wente Clone has great depth of character and subtle hints of honey to go along with the apple and citrus fruit.
The combination of these two clones with some new oak makes the quintessential California Chardonnay but with mountain-grown balance. And finally in 2017, we had the right conditions in the vineyards and enough crop to make our Signature Chardonnay.
Being sold out for four years is certainly not a good business plan. But waiting for perfect grapes is! And now that the four years have passed by, we are proud to announce the release of the 2017 Signature Chardonnay on September 1, 2018. Be warned, however, that we only produced 176 cases total, and that won’t last long! (Interested in more information, click here for the 2017 Chardonnay – Signature Fact Sheet on the wine!)
So if you find you are afflicted with Lackochardtonitis or even Lackolacktochardtonitis, the cure is the same. Integrate Madroña’s Signature Chardonnay to get your recommended daily allowance of great Chardonnay with hints of butter and vanilla. (Side effects may include happiness, contentment and a general sense of euphoria.) You’ll be protected until which point we are sold out again. (And then the dry mouth, confusion, disbelief, etc. will set in…)