Big, structured, and unexpectedly thrilling
The Tenor Chardonnay is a hybrid of classical and new world thinking, designed to take greatest advantage of the strengths of Washington’s climate and geography. Tenor Chardonnay is classically recognizable as chardonnay, especially in the aromatic profile, but also recognizable as a Tenor wine, in that it’s not afraid to go beyond common conventions for the grape. Grapes grown in this state are capable of remarkable freshness, as well as depth of flavor, and our goal is to create a pure and balanced expression of this grape as a stand-alone varietal.
Like all Tenor wines, the Chardonnay is big and opulent, intense and fruit forward, but it also shows great restraint. We’ve toned down the oak influence and upped the acidity to deliver a wine that is fresher, more angular and precise, and less soft or heavy on the palate. We’re not making a big, fat, buttery chardonnay; we want one that makes your mouth water a little, with good acidity and enough freshness to stand up to food.
When it comes to chardonnay, we are open-minded perfectionists. We are constantly evolving our process, and the wine reflects this slow evolution toward the ultimate balance of verve/vibrancy with the richness this varietal is noted for here in the new world. Barrel fermenting helps us achieve this balance and complexity, and it also enables Tenor Chardonnay to age gracefully, maintaining its approachable freshness and fruit while gaining layers of complexity through 4-6-8 years and possibly longer.
We are really careful about vineyard choice and lot choice, and we’re slowly moving towards greater shading and more off-axis planting. Orientation is key, but we also control exposure and shading at each site by allowing for more or less sprawling canopies. This helps us preserve the fruit integrity even in hot vintages.
Stillwater Creek VineyardsThese grapes come almost exclusively from Stillwater Creek, a 235 acre site on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills, planted in 2000. The proprietors bring over 30 years of grape growing experience in both California and Washington, and they are producing beautiful chardonnay.
We look for vineyards that are planted and oriented in a way that supports what we’re trying to accomplish with minimal manipulation. This means we generally source from vineyards that are farther north, particularly from Royal Slope and Royal City in the center of Washington State. We also generally select higher elevation sites that provide freshness and concentration to balance that fruitiness.
Sorting and SelectionsThe chardonnay lots are picked primarily at first light. The grapes are hand sorted at the vineyard and then shipped to the winery in refrigerated trucks. Fruit arrives at the winery, still cold, around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m, where the whole clusters go immediately into the press.
Tanking & PressingWe use a relatively static pressing method, so the grapes move as little as possible during the pressing process. The juice then goes into stainless steel tanks, where it is chilled, settled, and separated from the solids that fall out.
Barrelling & Fermenting
After pressing, the juice goes directly to barrel for fermentation. Once in barrel, it is fermented natively, without using cultured yeasts or malolactic bacteria. We use predominantly new French oak. Contrary to traditional burgundy style of medium grain, we opt for very tight grain barrels. This not only tones down the impact of the oak, it also forces the maturation process to run longer. We are promoting a longer, slower, cooler primary fermentation process for the chardonnay because we’re seeing better and better results with greater complexity developing. Primary fermentation times can be as long as 8-10 months. Each barrel ferments slightly differently, so we follow them individually, and only when each barrel has reached the profile we want for it do we sulfur it to stop the wine.
BlendingEvery time a barrel finishes, we get to evaluate it and build profiles around each individual barrel to blend and pull out the subtle differences that each piece provides.
BottlingBottling is very vintage dependant. It may be as fast as 10-11 months, or as long as 14-16 months. All bottling takes place in our state of the art facility in Walla Walla, WA.