As the fruit begins to ripen each fall, cooling fog blankets the vineyards, arriving in the late afternoon and remaining through the following morning. A classic vintage, with cool evenings and warm day sets the stage for this landmark Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. While 2003 was a long harvest, the final days were blessed with warm, dry winds that nurtured the vineyards toward full physiological maturity. This long even growing season yielded fruit with characteristic high acidity, intense layers of flavor and outstanding balance.
Russian River Ranches is a cuvee of wines crafted from several estate vineyards, each distinct in its own right and together, adding complexity to the blend. Vine Hill features the fine, sandy clay loam soil known as Gold Ridge, which drains quickly leaving scant nutrients so the vines struggle concentrating flavor due to smaller berries and lower yields. Shiloh and Kent vineyards add their own unique attributes, bringing backbone and an elegance to the wine. The storied Cutrer vineyard provides longevity to the wine and notable tropical fruit character. In each of these Sonoma Coast vineyards, an array of clones and rootstocks are matched to the soils ó assuring a cornucopia of flavors and a legendary wine that is consistent vintage to vintage, and always among the finest offered in any given year.
Grapes are hand-picked for optimal flavor and upon arrival at the winery; they are chilled, hand-sorted and gently pressed in whole clusters before undergoing primary fermentation in small French Oak barrels. Staves principally from Franceís Vosges and Allier forests, are carefully hand-selected and air seasoned for several years before being crafted by noted barrel artisans such as Tonnellerie Rousseau and Remond. To add greater complexity to the final blend, selected lots undergo malolactic fermentation. All lots rest sur lies in barrels for six months prior to being assembled into a uniform blend. As in most vintages, 2003 Russian River Ranches was allowed to evolve further with an additional six months of bottle aging prior to release.
The 2003 Russian River Ranches is crisp and lean, with good weight in the mid palate. Melons come to mind, overlaid by a lemon citrus flavor, drifting onward to an even more buoyant lemon zest finish of exceptional length and complexity. Iím fond of this wine with Pan Asian dishes, and traditional pairings such as shellfish or lobster risotto. An interesting cheese trio from the cart might include a Chevre, Gruyere and Provolone.